Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Most Interesting Entry at This Year's Baja 1000

 I picked the Quigley 4x4 Van as the 2013 "winner" of this title and many seemed to agree.  They DNF'd and never saw the end of the race but certainly put in a solid effort before returning stateside.

This year I am "awarding" (?) this title to an entry just showing up on the entry list.

Ikuo Hanawa is a long time Baja aficionado having run there a number of times as well as at Pikes Peak on occasion including behind the wheel of an electric vehicle.

For '14 Hanawa is coming to Baja with a completely new vehicle of his own design and build (from what I can decipher from the translated Japanese on his Facebook page).  He also lists it as his Baja/Dakar vehicle so maybe we'll see it in South America in a few months as well?  It certainly looks the Dakar part being VERY small looking with a non-existent rear end, and a wholly enclosed shell with dual spares almost completely covered.

The video Hanawa has posted lists the 2WD vehicle as having about 23 1/2 inches of front end travel and about 21 1/2 inches in the rear.  King bypass and coils dampen the front while the wheels are wrapped in 315/70R17 Yokohama Geolander A/T-S.  I'm not sure what type of transmission is in it but it looks to be a fairly stock version (maybe even a stock Nissan 370Z tranny?) as the video shows Hanawa rowing through the gears, certainly no sequential transmission present.  The engine in the vehicle is a Nissan 3.7L VQ37VHR V6 out of a 370Z putting out around 332 HP, while the "body" is completely tube framed and yet the vehicle will somehow be classified as a Nissan Frontier in SCORE's class 7 for "Open Mini-Trucks".  If there's a Frontier part on it, I'd be shocked.

It certainly looks like a foreign designed and built vehicle with an emphasis on a small size and light weight.  How its rather spindly looking suspension and steering holds up to the roughness of Baja will soon be seen.  I'll be rooting for him but having my doubts as to its ability to stay in one piece.  I would have expected that Hanawa has enough Baja experience to know what he is asking of his vehicle and have designed it accordingly--so what do I know?  My vehicle broke down every day I raced it the 2014 NORRA event, so clearly I don't have the answer.

As always for me, seeing something besides a Geiser Trophy Truck powered by some massive Cheby crate motor is the more captivating portion of this race.  I'm in the minority but I'm more of an underdog, root for the guy who is likely to lose, sort of person.  With someone like Hanawa and his Japanese engined, Dakar style buggie, some eyes might at least be pulled away from the carbon copy lineup one usually sees...if only for a moment.

To follow along with this effort, Ikuo Hanawa is #712.  Tracking should begin tomorrow 11/13.  The "other" Nissan Frontier in the race that I spoke of the other day is #2003.  Best of luck to both of them!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Bit of Baja Home With Me

My wife and I have frequently tried to collect sand from the beaches and locales we've visited over our time together and display it in little jars in our home as a nice, cheap keepsake and reminder of where we've been.  Amongst my many disappointments from my attempt at the NORRA Mexican 1000 was the fact that I didn't collect any sand from anywhere along the near two thousand miles we traversed of the Baja peninsula.
So some six months later I've finally begun to seriously take apart the NISMOStuff Frontier and head towards preparing it for 2015.  As I begin unbolting some steering and suspension components I notice that there sure appears to be a great deal of sand and silt packed into my frame.  Then I proceed to unbolt the skidplates and a sheet of powdery silt comes raining down on my garage floor.  Vacuuming up good deal of the light tan talcum like sand (?) brings me back to digging out the truck in the Mexican heat, dozens of miles from...well...nowhere.  Broken parts, broken trailer, broken van, lost teammates, all comes back.

I now have a large ziploc bag filled with some five pounds of Baja Mexico silt.  Some of this silt will be going in a jar on a shelf in my house to help bring back all those imbedded memories again and again.  The rest?  Maybe make a little silt bed in my own backyard?  Thanks again to Elliot Sherwod, Paul Hartl and Tim Meunier for plowing my truck through various silt beds and "collecting" all this sand for me, only to be revealed some six months later.  Baja...the gift that keeps on giving!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Someone At Playmobil Is Cool...

Initially saw this little gem within ADV Moto magazine, which, if you aren't reading on a regular basis, makes you a major sap.  It was within their Nov/Dec issue and listed as one of their holiday gift recommendations.  I'm still a fan of toys of all kinds be they Legos or otherwise and this one will also go on my wish list.

Playmobil has made some cool stuff in the recent past--a dirt bike and accompanying rider that my son has for one, providing a great deal of entertainment during my times playing with the kids.  This one is even more niche specific as I think the number of toys presenting an ADV bike with full panniers (with world traveling stickers even!) and Dakar style windscreen are between few and zero.

Grab it for your kids now.  If they don't play with know you will.

Playmobil ADV Motorcycle Link...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review(s): Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman & What Do You Care What Other People Think?

I'm reviewing these two works together as "What Do You Care" is essentially an extension of "Surely You're Joking".  Both are written in the same style and contain the same themes.

If you're not familiar with Richard Feynman a brief primer on him is as follows--a NYC born and bread theoretical physicist he was a major participant in the Manhattan project and went on to win the Nobel prize along with rubbing shoulders as an intellectual equal with Einstein, Oppenheimer, Bethe, Bohr and others.  He has become well known in popular culture due to his participation in the Challenger disaster investigation as well as his decidedly non-traditional scientist personality.

The books are all told in first person by Feynman himself as he recounts in numerous short vignettes various occurrences in his life that shed light on his various viewpoints.  In truth all these viewpoints all support his main viewpoint--which is that in virtually all circumstances the perceived correct way to do things is wrong and that people do not often enough question authority or make their own path.  In this aspect the title the second work "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" more closely sums up the overarching themes than anything else.

I also found "What Do You Care" to be the stronger of the two works.  The short vignettes become largely forgettable after a while as they skip from one moment in his life to the next.  You get an overall feeling as to his irreverence and brilliance (sometimes wandering into inflated egotism) but they don't carry a great deal of weight as they involve mundane things like how he picked up on various women or played the bongos in plays or learned to pick locks/crack safes--all interesting occurrences in their own right but not anything that stays with you emotionally besides your realization that Mr. Feynman was a really unique character, memorable for reasons besides just his massive intelligence and impact on our understanding of the fundamental functioning of the universe.

"What Do You Care" contains an extended section on Feynman's involvement with the Challenger investigation and this is the most valuable part of the books.  Here we see Feynman at his best--not dealing with trivial matters but in focusing his abilities and stubbornness at a single complex issue.  he cuts through the bureaucracy and politics involved in finding the blame for its catastrophic failure.  It can be legitimately be said that if he wasn't involved in the investigation that its cause would likely have gone unpublished.

If I had one of the two to recommend it would then be "What Do You Care" though both are worth consuming for their the mindset that they convey--question everything, make your own path and don't give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Nissan Frontier Returning to the Baja 1000 Next Weekend!

At least it currently looks that way!

 Los Angeles resident Glen Tanizawa has had this race in mind for a number of years now and has been transforming his Frontier into a SCORE compliant racer over the course of at least the past year with a significant amount of the work (of course) taking place in the last few months, weeks and days.

Glen and I have talked a bit back and forth with him being particularly interested in my efforts to race down the Baja peninsula earlier this year in my Nissan Frontier during the NORRA 1000.  Both the NORRA 1000 that I raced in and this year's Baja 1000 ran the entire length of the peninsula though the B1K is an whole order of difficulty greater than the NORRA event.

Unlike the NORRA 1000 there is zero downtime in the race.  We at least had each evening to try and make repairs and recover...not so in the B1K.  Glenn and his crew will have to go non-stop for likely close to 48 hours if they hope to finish.  They will also be taking on a course significantly more difficult that what I encountered--bigger rocks, deeper silt, steeper inclines, etc. and will have much fewer "transit" sections that we had in the NORRA event where we covered at least some of the mileage on pavement.

It is a HUGE undertaking, one that defies my imagination even having gotten a taste of what Baja racing entails earlier this year.  If you want to follow along with Glenn you can certainly go to his personal Facebook page and "friend" him to get updates before the race.  The race begins on 11/13 with the motorcycles off the line at 6AM local time and cars/trucks beginning at 12:30PM local time.  Running in the Sportsman 2000 class under #2003, Glenn should be starting darn near the very last of the vehicles to race, probably not until close to 3PM.  It has been years since a Nissan vehicle has even entered a SCORE event, let alone finish a B1K (I believe Bob Graham and his Nissan Titan was the last Nissan vehicle to finish a SCORE event back in '07) and I wish Glenn the best of luck.

If I have any advice coming out of my experiences?  Go slow.  Real slow.  As slow as you think you're going??  Go slower.  Stock or near stock vehicle components are just not meant to endure that terrain for any length of time.  You will get lulled into thinking you can go faster than is actually smart and you will be hauling ass down a fire road like course at 80 mph or better and then you'll run right into a minefield of rocks, ruts and ditches while your adrenalin is still coursing from driving with your hair ablaze...Knowing how to flick that switch between the two types of driving is huge.
Regardless, what you find here in photos are some of the build and development photos of Glenn's Frontier.  Enjoy and drop Glenn a line if you can.  I'm sure he could use the pat on the back and encouragement.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This?? Oh Nothing...Just a Fez From a Waffen SS Division Member...

This was within a private collection I visited in the recent past that brought to my attention the fact that there was an ever so nice connection between the Nazis and Muslims of Europe and the Mid-East in WWII.

This division of Bosnian Muslims was one of many efforts made between the Nazis and Muslims throughout Europe and the Mid-East to reach common goals--namely the extermination of those that they both found undesirable.  Hell, even a Grand Mufti from Jerusalem was flown in to assist in the recruiting of Muslims into the Nazi ranks.  They were known for their brutality and massacre of Serbs more than they were for their fighting excellence.  No terrorists here...just your usual genocidal maniacs.  And the skull??  Well its a real skull, just a prop though, not an actual dead Handzar SS Division Muslim...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dunkin Donuts Croissant Doughnut Review

The croissant doughnut or "cronut" is not a brand new item.  I believe they were created in NYC a couple years back and have been growing in notice and popularity ever since.  Dunkin has jumped on the bandwagon and created their own, in limited quantities daily, and began offering them this week.  As a big fan of donuts in general and new fatty food creations in particular, I just had to try one.

First off they are $2.49 a piece and thus are some 2 1/2 times the cost of their regular donuts.  Then there is the way they served it to me.  It wasn't just tossed in the brown paper bag that normal donuts go gets individually placed in its own cardboard box with plastic window so that you can gaze upon its sugar ice covered surface until you eat it.  I guess at the largely increased cost they are trying to make it seem like it is a premium product.

So the taste and eating experience?  The texture wasn't bad at all, it was decidedly croissant like.  Very springy in nature with multiple visible layers the "cronut" bounces back much more than a real croissant would.  The outer crust is crispier than that of a regular doughnut and I like this change.  Its nice having the difference in texture from inside to outside.  The item as a whole is a bit heavier and a bit chewier than a regular doughnut.  If I say the chewing experience is a bit rubbery, it has a bad connotation that I don't intend but it is accurate.  The icing is no different than the icing you'd find on your typical glazed doughnut so there really isn't much to say there...I wish there was more icing if anything.

All in all it is a fair experience.  The taste is good and a bit "greasier" than a doughnut with corresponding heaviness in the stomach and the same sweetness as a glazed version while retaining the buttery flavor of a croissant.  The texture is closer to that of a croissant than that of a doughnut and pleasant.  Bottom line??  Do you want to pay 2 1/2 times the cost of of your regular doughnut for what is largely similar experience except housed in a cardboard box??  I don't.