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Final Bout

Final Bout © Andor (10)

ClubFR came up with a truly great event, which promises to be the continent’s most beloved annual drift spectacle. Teams from coast to coast, north to south, gathered in a small town in rural Wisconsin. Unlike most drift events, this was a battle of teams, as opposed to individual drivers. The stage was set at My favorite track, USA International Raceway, known to most as UsaIR. A hilly, winding cart track located just outside of the town of Shawano. To those of us from the midwest drifting comunity, this place is also called the rollercoaster of love. Now, the love has been shared with a selection of crews from far beyond our region. I hope they all enjoyed it and come back for more next year!

Final Bout © Andor (8)

Never have I seen enough people to be called a crowd of spectators at this track, until now. They certainly got to see what they came for. Two days of tire shredding, wall riding and relentless attempts to get right up on the door of each other, the drivers in attendance left nothing on the table. The judges for the event were three heavy hitters, though one is more a regional legend, they were a good choice of respectable drifters. They narrowed down the field to four teams and after another run from each, made the verdict. Fourth place was taken by ShaDynasty, a crew from Washington State. In My opinion, the cars driven by these guys were the most interesting collection there. Third place was handed to regional heavy weights, Risky Devil, from Chicago. Second place went to the Hot Boyz, hailing from Alberta, Canada. They were outshining just about everyone on the first day, but a concrete barrier decided to intervene and change things up. The winners of the first annual Final Bout, team drift battle? High Fade, also from the Chicago area. They were very consistent all weekend. It looked to Me like they had been practicing team driving more than anyone else. Before launching for each run, the lead car would rev it’s engine twice and wait. The last car in line would then rev it’s engine once, signalling everyone was ready and off they went. Most of the crews ended up spreading out during their runs, but High Fade stayed together every time. Some may argue otherwise, but these guys earned the win for sure!

I was not on the media roster for this event, so this is not a complete coverage kind of post. In fact I spent half of the weekend working the entry gate, so I did miss an awful lot of the action. However, for Me, there is no such thing as going on a road trip and not taking a ton of pictures. Happily, the ClubFR family are friends of mine, so they thanked Me for helping out and let Me go do My photo geek thing for a while. Phill, Maggie, Simba, Ilia and the rest of the crew, thanks a bunch for coming up with the idea for this event and making it into reality! I had a great time and I’ll see You when I see You, hopefully that will be soon.


30 Hour Vacation

30 Hour Vacation © Andor (21)

I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.

Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.

For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.

Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.

My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.

After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…


An Evening on the Side of the Road, Bringing Back Great Memories

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (1)

This weekend is the Car Craft Nationals here in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I have been taking a LOT of car pictures lately, so I opted not to attend the gathering it’s self. Instead heading out with My buddy Ryan Clemens of Opposition Motors, to post up on the side of Snelling, just out side of the show. There was a very wide variety of vehicles out and about, mostly American made, spanning many decades, but there were some other cars out cruising too. It is nice to see classic and modern muscle cars, massive land boats from the 70’s and 80’s, low riders, high riding trucks, kit cars, sports cars and a whole lot more, out on the streets at once.

An Evening on the Side of the Road © Andor (42)

This was like a throw back for Me. When I was Younger, University Avenue was the home of all things cruising. Every weekend there were thousands, upon thousands of cars and huge quantities of people out on the strip. We had one of the most robust car cultures in the world, on display, three days a week. Over the last ten to fifteen years, this scene has been broken up and dispersed, to the bain of an awful lot of local businesses. So many local and family owned restaurants and shops have gone out of business since the city started it’s campaign to end the cruising scene’s dominance of our weekend culture. Much of the blame lands on the shoulders of a large home for the elderly, building and expanding to become a sprawling complex, right on University, next door to the beating heart of this, now miniscule scene, Porky’s drive in. Naturally, the people at the Episcopal Homes complained heavily about the noise and abundance of people walking next to their building. Sadly, three or four years ago, Porky’s, the lone 50’s style eatery left in Saint Paul and home to some of the best all American eat’s around, went out of business. I really, REALLY miss having My double supreme burger, with that great “special sauce,” the city’s best pork cutlet sandwich, the best onion rings I’ve ever had and a thick, chunky strawberry malt, whenever I want. Now I, as well as every one else, will never get to eat their great food again. Below is a picture from their last year in business. That crowd, is nothing compared to what was around for decades in the past. The massive bland buildings in the rear, are two of the four newest buildings of said retirement home. I am all for giving our elders reasonable homes, with care takers to look after them as best they can, but why choose the busiest street in a bustling part of town? Can You guess who expanded in to the space left when Porky’s died?

Porky's Drive Thru in 2010 © Andor

I wish I had a better picture of this iconic eatery, but I don’t. In the end, all hope of the cruising scene on University being revived, was crushed by the construction of the recently completed light rail line, which runs right down the center of the street. The car culture is still visible, but since there is no place that everyone knows to go to, the numbers of cars out on the weekends are laughable. There is no where that You’ll find ten, or fifteen thousand people gathering, like in the past. So those of us who wish to re-live the sight seeing, less the food that’s not available anymore, must wait for two or three events per year. Back to the Fifties and Car Craft being the main draw. The local economy has been delt a pretty big negative impact overall. These hand full of gatherings do help a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that the miles of road occupied by smaller businesses are now lined by endless corporate chain stores. Funneling money out of the Twin Cities. The general lack of low riders and imports out at these events is a huge loss of variety too, but at least we still have something! I guess.


Another Cold, Windy and Wet Day at the Track

Drift Day 47 © Andor (0)

The first gathering in ClubFR’s 2014 season has come and gone. As expected, there were not a ton of entries. Even so, for the first time, I neglected to take pictures of every car on the track. Many of the guys were just starting to figure out how to keep their cars sliding. Another thing that I chose not to do so much was to point My camera at cars with missing body parts. After nearly a decade of shooting pictures at drift events, half dressed cars have gotten really boring. Making a day of one, 5 hour lap of the advanced course in the traditional UsaIR, dual track layout. Here is what some of what I got for You.

Please note, in the very last picture, the driver of the red BMW has his eyes closed!


AutoMass Round 3

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Another fine day in Chicago. AutoMass is a car show and drift event with a side of food trucks. It makes for quite an enjoyable gathering, which is no suprise considering ClubFR and Touge Factory are the organizers. I’ve been to many of the ClubFR drift events and have always had a great time. So, a perfect opportunity to test out My new Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS. It’s so nice to be able to get a reasonably close in shot of something that is more than 25 feet away. The spotty cloud cover was hard to work with, but here is a taste of what I got.

I didn’t actually eat a lot from the food trucks. I started the day at the Baby Cakes truck to take the edge off My hunger. I then had three varieties of delicous cupcakes from the friendly guy at the Chicago Cupcake truck. The strawberry shortcake cupcake was quite something, a crumbly bottom supporting a heavy cake, stuffed with what was almost like candied strawberries, but it wasn’t too sweet and topped with a nice creamy strawberry frosting. I’m usually a fan of light fluffy cupcakes, but the layers of texture and flavor offered in this one were just lovely.

There were also some tricksters, burning rubber and maneuvering about on their motorcycles. I was mostly impressed by the guy with a prosthetic leg, He wasn’t the weakest of the handful of riders there either. There was a couple doing some pretty rad stunts too, some of which were done at high speeds.