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Another Glance at Final Bout

Another Glance at Final Bout © Andor (30)

I do like drifting. But the real reason I still go to these events has little to do with the cars, or the driving. To Me, camping is the good life. Out under the stars, the sounds of wind, sweeping through the trees, the lack of sirens, which never stop at home in the city. Race tracks aren’t exactly what most people think of when You say camping, but they’re a great alternative to the many popular parks, which are often booked full, or only offer a gravel parking lot full of other people and claim it’s a camp site… Usa International Raceway has, for many years, been My go to camping track. I first pitched a tent here in 2006 and have been happy to do so at least once a year since. It’s not a secluded hike in camp, nor is there a waterfall to soothe the senses. Though it is pretty sweet waking up to wailing engines and screaming tires.

Naturally, I took the time to shoot the stars on both nights this Final Bout weekend. This after all, is what I love to do most… Don’t mind the terrible video quality, tis the way of things when You get free hosting. If You watch it on Vimeo’s site, it will look a little bit better. Just don’t expect it to be great.

I would like to point out how lucky we were, or how lucky this guy was anyways. To survive without a fiery melt down. There was once a Hyundai Genesis that went up in flames and burned til it was no more than a pile of metal at this track. Though it would’ve made great pictures to see this s14 burn, I’m happy it didn’t. Please note, the flamable liquid flowing from behind the door for the gas cap!

Another Glance at Final Bout © Andor (20)

Though My goal for the weekend was to capture as much carnage as possible, I didn’t get any. I even missed Tim slamming his car in to the back of Fish. Which looks to have ended the life of Tim’s s13 and delt a fair amount of damage to Fish’s freshly built Boss Datsun Camaro Rocket Mustang Silvia Bunny, or whatever the hell You’d call it. And so, in the absence of destruction of whole cars, here are a few more views of tires being ravaged by horsepower and tarmac. Among other things.

 


Making Ramen with Friends


A 15 Hour Vacation

Tettegouche © Andor (34)

Twenty days ago, My brother, his wife and I, headed up to Lake Superior. Making a day of wandering along the northern coast. I had never been up there in the winter months and was quite curious about what much of it would look like. We started by chasing waterfalls. Figuring we would go to the most northerly destination first and make our way south from there. We arrived at stop number one and proceeded to be very underwhelmed, the falls were a mass of ice without any detail, or interesting ice formations at all. Ok, that’s fine, let’s hit My favorite waterfall next! A ten minute drive and a short hike later, we arrived! But, it was also a bit of a let down… The ice was not very photogenic. Realizing that the best Ice shots were probably to be had early in the winter, as opposed to our venture near winter’s end, we wandered back towards the car. Instead of taking the trail, we walked on the river. Which turned out to be very memorable! All was well for the first half of the stroll, but then we started encountering some pretty thin sounding ice. My sister in law being pregnant and carrying five thousand dollars in camera gear myself, we departed from the river walk and scrambled back up the hill to the trail. It was pretty rad walking on water though, even if it led to much anxiousness and a bit of fear..

After that, we made our way back towards the south. Pausing for a quick view of this rock beach that I had visited with a friend last year. It is actually private property, but I was a bit suprised to see that there was no sign of humans there. Clearly, this place was actually owned by deer. Who had left plenty of tracks in the snow… There were some pretty cool frozen rock walls, held together by ice. Some spots had a four or five foot overhang. It was pretty neat, especially because of the icey build up on the southern point in this miniature bay.

Then, we stopped at Tettegouche State Park. The crown jewel of the state parks system here in Minnesota. Opting not to bother with the hike inland to the falls, we stayed along the coast and were dazzled by the ice built up around the shore line. Many pictures were taken, much time passed by and just like My previous visits to this park, I did not want to leave…

We did leave this wintery wonderland though. The pregnant one among us was getting pretty tired. So we stopped at Palisade Head, where I took a lonely walk up to the the high ground. Pausing to take a shot of the communication tower piercing through the bold sun dog above, I made it to the overlook. What a view! You can see the southern quarter of the rolling hills to the north and the endless glitter of Lake Superior to the south. It was by far the easiest hike of the day and yielded one of the most spectacular perspectives on the north shore…

Continuing south towards Duluth, we made one more stop. So I could take some pictures of the light house at Split Rock. Unlike anywhere to the north, the bay was mostly iced over. Having walked down a river of ice a few hours earlier, I started My way out to the edge of the bay, walking on the lake… There is an island a couple hundred yards out. I noticed some people were on the island and also made note of the many lines of foot prints in the thin snow all around the bay. The ice was pretty thick, so I was quite confident as I wandered towards the spot where one can take a picture with the island and light house together. About a third of the way there however, there was a cracking sound and the ice shifted under My feet. Not by much, maybe an inch and a half, but I watched a crack form, a foot or so to the side of Me that stretched all the way out to open water. Heartbeat increasing to a rapid pace, I hopped over the crack. Which was inbetween Me and solid ground and hurried off the ice.. I then snapped a couple shots of the light house and neglected to make it out to the planned location of shooting. Adrenaline flowing, I walked the path back to where My brother and his wife were waiting and we departed.

We made a pit stop in Duluth to fill our bellies. Then decided there was still time for another stop. My brother and I were both curious to see Jay Cooke state park. We had camped there a few years ago, but wanted to see what it looked like now. The reason for this curiousity is that two years ago, a damm just up stream from the park broke. Sending a gnarly torrent of flooding southward in to the park. It washed away the bridge that is the only real access to the camp sites and many miles of hiking trails. The water was super low compared to our previous visit and there was a spiffy new bridge over the river. If there were any other real differences, they were hiding under ice and snow..

With the sun sinking in the sky and home being over two hundred miles away, we hopped back in the car and made our way south toward the Twin Cities. Quite the successful day trip! We even got to enjoy a pretty lovely sunset as we cruised down the interstate, on our way home…


Stacking the Stars

In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.

Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…

Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (1) Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (2)

I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.

Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (1) Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (2)North Polar Axis over the Avery Wildlife Refuge © AndorNight Sky in Central Minnesota © AndorOrion Passing By © Andor


Another One Night Stand

Night Sky © Andor (1)

That’s right, I went on yet another one night camping excursion. This time, My brother, our friend Ryan and I headed to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The site that I booked was nicely secluded, located on a beaver laden pond, it made for a very pleasant night. Hiking the trail out to our weekend home, it was clear that we were in a part of the park that most people rarely visit. This was certainly one of the most picturesque places that I have been lately. With any luck, I shall camp at this spot again once winter is in full swing. I didn’t take a ton of pictures during the day, instead opting to focus on capturing the stars in the night’s sky. For the first time, I had good luck too. There were no clouds that night and the moon was on the other side of the planet. One couldn’t ask for better conditions to capture the vast expanse of stars.

Most of the day time was spent being lazy as hell. I did set up My cameras to catch a couple of time lapses, but did not take the time to set up My shots very well. Even so, I made a quick video of what I did manage to catch. At this rate, I am going to have to pay Vimeo, so You can all see what I’ve been doing in a reasonable resolution. :( Go ahead, have a look, there’s some nice stuff mixed in to the medeocre day time lapses. I do suggest hitting the misleading “HD” button, which brings You away from here and on to Vimeo’s site to watch it. The quality is slightly more appreciable.

Just after pausing by a map, to see where we were and staopping to take a quick shadow selfie, the path led us to the remains of a tree, about 7 feet tall and completely hollowed out by woodpeckers. Happily, they made a hole near the base, the perfect size to squeeze a camera into.

Where Are We Anyways © Andor

Selfie © Andor

Wandering in the Forest © Andor (3)

We did not see any bears, but definately spotted their droppings. There were a few little garter snakes slithering around and plenty of odd varieties of fungus growing all about. I really do love the wilderness! Why did I have to be born in to the city life? Hopefully one day I will be able to afford to move out of the urban environment, I would be a much happy’er person.


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.


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.