Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It's Fair time... you know what that means!

That it's time for the annual Stanislaus County Fair Destruction Derby! I've commented before on assignments that I look forward to every year, and the fair, including the destruction derby, is probably my favorite.

I mean seriously folks, this is American entertainment at its finest! Where else can you go to legally watch full grown men and women bash into each other with their vehicles? It may seem like
a pointless pass time, but this event only comes around once a year and many, many people, including alot of locals, look forward to it every year.... including myself. Every year that I attend, my love for the quirky sport grows with every crunch of every car, with the sounds of the finely tuned engines blowing, or hearing the hiss of a busted radiator or blown tire... music to my ears.

Well above is a sequence of photos taken from last years demo derby, I had never witnessed a car being flipped during the event, and it actually happened twice, this second time the car's engine burst into flames. It's hard to see in the small frames, but the crowd in the background is going wild.

Above is one of my friends Nic Gustafson, standing atop what's left of a 1973 Pontiac. He's waiting for one of the tow trucks to come pull him out of the arena and back to the pits after competing in his heat. Believe it or not, his accordion car was beat back into place by his pit crew and was back out on the arena for the consolation round during last year's derby.

The woman in the photo above is also waiting for a tow truck, her car didn't get much play due to an engine failure. Photo was taken with a Pentax 6x7, ISO 100 and looks great as a black and white print.

Flames shooting from an engine during the derby a couple years ago.

Above is Nic's "accordion" Pontiac being smashed by Westley's Keith Yamamoto in the Red #5 car behind him. You can see why I call it an accordion, the whole rear 4 feet of the car were missing after this final consolation heat during last year's derby.
Above is Patterson's Kyle Guido in the #69 Lincoln Town Car, mashing into Westley's Jason Yamamoto in his vehicle during a destruction derby two years ago, from what I remember, Guido did pretty good overall.

Above, Jason Yamamoto waves the red caution flag from his car after a fire breaks out in his cab filling it with smoke.

Above is Patterson's Brent Kaiser taking a hard blow from a car during the derby a couple years ago. Brent will be driving again this year as well.

Above is Patterson's Matthew Hollowell getting hung up on one of the K rails that surrounds the arena. He had a little radiator damage and damage to the points system that which controls the spark to the engine, but the same car above has been refurbished with electronic ignition, new paint, and is ready to go for his wife Amy to drive during Tuesday August 4th's Demo Derby.

Above, rural Patterson's Jake "trap shooter" Smith and his pit crew try to get his car started and into the consolation round after the car died on the way into the arena. They couldn't get it started and had to push it out of the way. I'm not sure if Smith is competing again this year or not, but I'd like to see him out there make more of a run this time around.
So getting the cars ready to go and driving them is half the fun. Putting them back together in a limited amount of time to get them ready for the next round is the other half. Above, Jason Yamamoto's car is being worked on by his pit crew... cut the fenders off in the back, work to get the engine running up front, and making sure that the fire won't happen again inside the cab while the rest of the derby pit madness goes on behind them. This shot was taken a couple years ago.

Above, rural Patterson's Marty Barbaste cuts the fenders off of Brent Kaiser's car after his first heat last year. Cutting the fenders off allows the tires of the car to move a little more freely, especially after the cars have been smashed in a little.

Above, Westley's Bob Yamamoto, welds the rear end of Jason's derby car together, giving him more traction in the rear wheels when driving in the arena.

Above a separate pit crew uses a handheld circular saw to cut away a trunk that is getting in the way sending sparks everywhere. The pit is always exciting to be around during the derby, there is always something going on, sledgehammers flying, sparks and hot embers getting stuck down your shirt or clothes... it's a complete auto repair shop, that has to get cars working in a matter of minutes rather than days, it really puts the pressure on.

Well, here's this year's competitors, above is Amy Whitman-Holloway, and Matthew Holloway standing next to their vehicles. The white car is an '84 Cadillac, and the black one is Matt's '78 Grand Marquis from last year. Unlike the other derby entrants, these two will be competing during Tuesday's event not Monday's Traditional Turmoil Destruction Derby event. Both are competitive, but the second day is a little easier for spectators to get tickets to and includes a derby class just for women, as well as a heat for more modern cars, and a heat for trucks and Suv's as well. I'm looking forward to the Metal Mayhem derby event just as much as Monday night's event.

Above Kyle Guido and some helpers from Ken Herger's Elm avenue shop (Thomas Dodd and Sergio Ceravantes) get to work on Guido's '71 Chrysler New Yorker. With less than a week before the Monday night event, the crew is still working to get the engine running, but under the direction of Ken Herger, I know that things will be running smoothly come competition time.

Above, Jason Yamamoto shows me the engine of his '69 Chrysler Imperial. His brother Keith is running an identical car posted at the bottom of the post, however this will be the last year that the county fair allows Imperials in the derby because the vehicles have proven themselves to be superior to others in the derby class.
Running with the Y&L Farms crew from out of Westley this year is going to be Johnny Azevedo's Chrysler Newport, the crew just started on this entry but will have it running by next Monday's event time.

There's Keith Yamamoto's car, minus the derby paint and numbers, a stout '69 Chrysler Imperial. Good luck to all of this year's competitors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

gone for a few days...

Took a few days off recently to get out of the area and out of the heat for a while. So, my girlfriend Lori and I packed up the car and headed north to the lush and green forests of Oregon and Northern California. It was a much needed getaway that encompassed 1,700 miles in 6 days. First stop in Oregon was the Umpqua natural hot springs shown below. This travertine springs formed originally when trees in the area grew old, died, and upon falling over, created a hole in the ground that the springs would form in. A perfect area to soak... that is if you can stand 112 degree heat.

Of course the water flowing from the source pool above has to go somewhere and flows into other pools, some natural, and some formed with the help of human hands, before trickling all the way down to the rushing, frigid, Umpqua river below.Such a beautiful, relaxing, place it was, very hard to leave. Lori and I hiked in about 3.5 miles with our overnight backpacks, and after staying a night at a nearby free campsite, were back on the trail through the Oregon Cascades.

There's Lori cooling down in a portion of Cougar reservoir. While the water was a little cold for me, it was just perfect for her. She swam over to the waterfall and back and contemplated some cliff diving. We camped there for two nights, relaxed at the Cougar hot springs (photographed at the top of the page) where natural hot water flows from the little fern covered cave at the bottom right of the picture.
After a few days in Oregon, we cut over to the Oregon coastline, stopping here and there to take in the scenery.
By the time the sun began to set, we had re-entered California and began to think about where we might camp for the night. Pulling off of hwy 101 we drove through the old growth forests of the Humboldt Redwoods State Park (also on Gov. Arnold's list of park closures). We found many open campsites and in the morning began to explore the many thousands of acres of old growth redwood forests.
I love how the sun peeks through the canopy of the tall redwood forests. Since the sun is always moving, there is always different types of lighting that shine through onto the forest floors. The light in its varying intensities, can really set the mood of a photograph, however you have to be quite quick in composing and taking your photograph due to the fact that in a few moments, the sun would be shining on something else.
Below, frequenters to the park beat the heat in the Eel River, which runs right through the Humboldt-Redwoods State Park.
Well, it was an amazing trip full of sights to see. Can't wait 'til my next stint of time off coming here in a few weeks, I think I might head down south to the desert, see some of my family that lives down there, and share some of their 117 degree heat that I miss so much. It definitely is a different part of the state, but still just as beautiful and deserves just as much attention in conservation and preservation efforts that the old growth Humboldt-Redwoods forests receive.