Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Christmas tree in Portland's living room.

Last Friday after work I noticed a change in the demographics of those on the #14 Hawthorne bus, the one I catch on the corner beside my building. Families with little children. It took me over the bridge and through a few blocks before I realized these folks were on the way to Pioneer Courthouse Square for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Since it was not raining or even drizzling, I called Mama and told her I was going to stop off for it, too.

After walking a couple of blocks, I joined thousands packed side-by-side, waiting for that magical moment when the 75-foot tall Douglas fir changed from just another tall tree into a sparkling cone of glowing lights. Young women dressed like elves handed out candy canes while a favorite local singer, Linda Hornbuckle, wrapped her blues, soul, gospel voice around traditional Christmas music. By 6:11 p.m., right on schedule for the live TV coverage, the lights flashed on at the end of the communal countdown.

Lots of people stayed to mingle, like they often do at the most visited site in Oregon's most visited city. It's easy to see why Pioneer Square is known as Portland's living room since the brick steps that ring it make perfect places to sit and talk or read or people watch.

I headed for my bus and home, more determined than ever to get Mama and me a tree of our own. And to return to Pioneer Square, perhaps for Tuba Christmas on Dec. 9 and/or It's a Kazoo Christmas on Dec. 16. Sounds like great fun to me.

Oh, here's a link to a live camera on the square--the tents surrounding the tree are for this weekend's Holiday Ale Festival. Hey, maybe I should make that one, too. Afterall, I can ride the bus there and back, for free.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The final photos.

The first photo is a restart after a caution. The next photo is earlier, in the garage, when we got to meet 2004 Nextal champ Kurt Busch. He didn't do so well this year, but it was neat to get to meet him. Leland said to me as we walked off, "Do all NASCAR drivers have soft hands?" The next photo shows cars leaving the pits, after getting gas, tires, you name it. Junior led the race some of the time--that's the next shot. And finally, I got to see a replacement front end for Junior's car being rolled along to his garage area. Neat.

More fun and festivities before the race.

Jets flew overhead. A UPS man delivered the green flag to start the race. Trucks towed a giant American flag around the entire track. And that's a view of the only campground I saw at the track--not much compared to Talladega, now is it? You can tell how close we were to the end of the grandstand in turn no. 1. We could see the entire track from there.

Golden Knights Black Team, part of the pre-race festivities, NASCAR Nextel Cup Ford 400 Championship, Nov. 19

I promise, I tried several times to upload these doggone pictures in the correct sequence, but it just wouldn't do it for me. Y'all know that the one of the man landing comes last! The second one I actually took first, as they had dropped away from the plane and activated the smoke. The bottom picture came next, as the announcer talked about their corkscrews, followed by that bit of a closeup--y'all know I've been pining for a camera with a bigger zoom! And that guy on the ground is actually the last one of the group to land. It was pretty impressive.

NASCAR Nextel Garage, Sunday, Nov. 19

The top photo shows Joe Nemechek who drives the Army car. Here he's signing autographs after answering soldiers' questions in the garage area.

Here's Jeff Gordon's car in the garage and his gas cans, all lined up in front of his hauler. Did you know that the cars go into the top of the hauler and that the drivers bring two cars to each race track? Marie told us that on our tour on Saturday. This picture was taken on Sunday before the big race, the last one of this season.

The Lowes car is Jimmie Johnson's. He won the 2006 championship.

One of Kyle Busch's crew guys worked and measured for quite a while underneath the back end of the car. Those NASCAR inspectors are tough.

Monday, November 20, 2006

We're tired, happy and flying home to Portland today.

Leland got some sun! This is Saturday night on our teensy balcony. He's pointing at the Improv sign.

That's Juan Pablo Montoya on fire with 14 laps to go in the Ford 400. We could smell it burning! He got out right quick, let me tell you. NASCAR safety features are amazing.

The wind blasted me as we waited for our car to come on Sunday morning. Thank goodness it didn't blow like that all day cause we were out in it for hours and hours.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday's garage tour, practice and race.

During the Busch race, this car had an oil fire; I think it's Reed Sorenson. He got out OK.

During Cup practice, the track was closed for a few minutes--I cannot remember why. This is Junior pulled up beside Tony Stewart, waiting to find out if they would be allowed to resume. Moments later, all the cars started their loud, rumbling, vibrating engines and took off again.

Part of one of Junior's Busch pit stops--it's amazing how quick they happen under the watchful eye of the NASCAR official.

This guy took a safe nap for hours and hours--I forgot to look for whenever he finally sat up to see if he was so stiff he couldn't move!

That's another shot of a pit stop.

Leland and I stood in front of Mark Martin's car in the garage. The loud motor vibrated the air so much that Leland felt the disks on the chain around his neck vibrate! He was amazed; I was in race-fan heaven.

Next it's us at Victory Lane, us in front of Junior's car hauler, me beside Junior's tractor that pulls the car hauler, and finally, me with Rutledge from "Race Day" on the Speed Channel. Love it.

What a great day we had.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Last little bit from Friday.

This great neon marquee is off out balcony, to the right--wonder who that is in the photo? Must be a comedian who's playing at the Improv, assuming it's a comedy club.

These men in the next photo intently competed in the Ford Pit Stop Challenge, utilizing airguns to change left-side tires on a Ford Infinion. It seemed that a never ending stream of men fulfilled their wildest dreams and hoped to win tickets to next year's Ford Homestead race events.

The second photo shows some of the myriad opportunities provided for one to part with one's money, plus you can see the Goodyear blimp overhead. NASCAR fans are nothing if not loyal consumers. buying all sorts of stuff to label themselves as supporting this driver or that driver. It's fun and colorful.

The second photo shows some of the Nextel Cup cars lined up for practice Friday evening; my favorite driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 8. In the last shot, Junior had come to a stop after making one lap--the Nextel officials had everyone on the track stop when one of the car's oil lines broke. I couldn't believe that he actually stopped right in front of us; Leland took this photo for me. My little camera doesn't have much of a zoom or flash, so anything I get that is a decent shot is purely an accidental gift. Someday I'll go to another race and have a bigger camera, but until then I'm quite satisfied with serendipty's visits.

More of Friday's fun.

There I am on the 8th floor of the Sonesta Coconut Grove Hotel & Suites--our room is on 17th floor. That's the Biscayne Bay in the background. I look just like a tourist, don't I?

What I want to know is what would tropical spots do without that hue of blue! The umbrellas here, the lamp posts there, it calls to mind fun in the sun.

Couldn't resist that gorgeous Buick with the Rhode Island plates! It was parked across from the park on the beach where I could envision Crockett and Tubbs in their Miami Vice duds, lookin' all smart and sexy while solving crimes.

That's the Goodyear blimp as it flew over our car while we were parking--first time I've ever had a sunroof!

Friday's fine for sightseeing and truck racing!

It' a treat to put your feet in the warm waters of the Atlantic. Just think, if'd I turned to my right, I would have been looking towards New York City! I picked up a few pieces of creamy-colored coral as we walked back towards where we'd parked the car.

I still haven't figured out how to finesse this blog stuff, so the photos are not in sequence, but as y'all know, I tend to ricochet while telling tales, so it fits just fine.

We went to South Beach, Miami Beach, and ate lunch at Johnny Rocket's before taking a short walk along the sands that aren't really sand. While we were eating, Leland realized we were in front of the building where MTV's "South Beach" is filmed. In fact, one of the twins came down the stairs, got some money from the ATM and caught a cab right behind us.

The second photo is a close up of the Track Scan from Nextel that we rented for the weekend. With two headphones and one Fan View, we're able to see close up shots of the race, hear the radio broadcast of it, and listen to drivers and their spotters and/or pit crews. It's so much fun. That photo is of Mark Martin on the way to the checkered flag in the Ford 200 last night. That was his last truck race with Roush Racing since he's changing teams next year. The first thing he said after winning was to his crew, thanking them, saying something like "I don't know what I did to deserve you--thanks." I thought that was pretty neat. Oh, and we heard no profanity last night which I have to admit surprised the hell out of me. I did hear one "freakin'" but otherwise, it was all business, especially during the Busch and Cup practices. There's one other photo of Martin with three laps to go--he had to go to the front three times during the race due to cautions and pit stops before finally winning. One time when he got the lead, his spotter told him "You the man."

There's my darlin' 28-year-old son Leland on our balcony yesterday morning, all freshly showered and ready to face the day with his mama. Little did he know that the day would include an unreal amount of regular Miami traffic as we made our way through the streets and over the causeway to Miami Beach.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

We are in Miami! Land of Latin music and warm breezes!

We made it to Miami! The flight from Portland to Dallas was pleasantly uneventful, filled with crossword puzzles. In Dallas we learned we'd be delayed in taking off due to another flight's delay. We endured. The presence of two groups of semi-drunk NASCAR fans didn't make it too painful, but truly we were glad to leave them behind at the airport here in Miami.

The photo is from our room on the 17th floor, city view side of the Sonesta Coconut Grove Hotel & Suites. Having eaten nothing but peanut butter and crackers all day, what we in the South call nabs for reasons I've yet to discern, we walked over to the establishment called Cafe Tu Tu Tango to get something to eat and drink, around 11:30 p.m. Miami time. The cafe's outside bar is located in that pinkish-colored strip running across the center of the photo. There was an excellent but extremely loud DJ spinning CDs. His mix choice pleased both Leland and me, oldies and old rap, not too much cussing and such. All I really wanted was some French fries--they were just right. As was their award-winning red wine sangria.

Off to bed in a few and off to the truck races tomorrow night. At the track earlier there will be all sorts of practice sessions and qualifying for the truck race which begins at 8 p.m. NASCAR under the lights. Sounds great to me.

Gotta get some sleep now.