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Parrottrek Journal 2007

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Grandma shows off her new scarf

Cody helps open Christmas presents

Hayley and Torrie's grand finale

A fun Christmas party at the White's

Happy New Year!!!!
Our off season has been wonderful. We have had almost two months off, minus the Rodeo in Vegas, and we have been able to visit all of our friends and family and celebrated with them. We had a Christmas party in Santa Barbara with all of our friends from high school and college at Tony and Allison's. We had an early Christmas party complete with Ty the Reindeer, a little poker and an interactive 80's Name That Tune game with good friends in Santa Maria. Christmas Eve was spent at Frank's sister's house with all the family. Hayley and Torrie even put on a show as Kevin cooked the best Prime Rib ever with all the trimmings! Yes we will have to start out 2007 with an exercise program if we continue to eat like we have since we have been here, but it sure is worth it.

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The cutest reindeer of all time

Joe goes all in

John calls his bluff and wins the hand

Ty's reward for being a good reindeer

January 8th 2007 - On the road again!!!
As a new year unfolds as does a new adventure for the Whitmore clan. It's great to get back out on the road and traveling again. We are now in Lake Forest, the California home of the Monster Energy Drink Race Team. We are busy packing and putting together the new hospitality trailer for our team. It's quite an amazing process to see a team develop from scratch. The crew guys are busy inside putting the car together as Frank, Eddie and I work outside making sure all of the pieces to our awning and seating areas are complete. Today the semi will get wrapped with all the Monster logos and then we will be official!

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The Funny Car's before and after pictures

What a difference a few decals make

The entire transporter fits inside the shop

The hospitality trailer ready to roll

January 17th - Creating a Monster -
What just a few months ago was a half empty warehouse, due to the fact that the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Dragster is housed and worked on in Indianapolis, Indiana, is now a full running, Funny Car making, Monster decaling shop. It's amazing what a few guys, who I must add have been putting in some crazy long hours, can put together in such a short period of time. Just a few days ago all the cars and both semis were completely black without any markings on them whatsoever. Now however, there is no mistaking just who our sponsor is. The logo and decals look so sharp against the black. Whoever in the Monster world thought of the ever present Monster 'M' is a bit of a marketing genius. And let me tell you, everything that has anything to do with the car or the transports or the tool boxes or anything sits still longer than a nano-second has a very distinct 'M' on them, including Frank and I. The uniforms are very nice and look pretty much like the above car. The uniforms include a t-shirt for casual wear, a golf shirt for work days and some very fancy race day shirts to wear on location at the race tracks during the events. Also included in the wardrobe is a big comfy jacket for cold mornings just like the ones we have been having this past week here in California. The picture to the left is of the inside of our storage area, which is the back of a semi trailer. And the empty space above will be where the Funny Car will be stored.

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Not an inch of room unused

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January 20th - A Fun Day With Friends - Bonsall, California -
The Monster car is on its way to a testing session at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. In fact as I type they are hopefully safely and quickly speeding down the racetrack right now. It has got to be such a great feeling for those guys to watch all their work of the last few months pay off. Frank and I left the shop on Wednesday night and are now in Mira Loma at Prevost where our wonderful friends will tune up our bus and get us all ready to embark on another 28,000 mile year of fun. We are conveniently located quite close to many friends including the Treicks. Kate and I grew up together and have been friends since Kindergarten. It's such a wonderful thing to keep in touch with friends like Kate and Joel over the years. They are expecting their first child in March. Her name is Lily and she is quite an active little one already. The five of us went to lunch at a great little café called Sunrize Café. It had a bit of a Hawaiian flare and was a great place to spend a Saturday afternoon gabbing with friends. Frank and I got to see their home in the hills of Bonsall and took a little tour of the nearby horse ranch where the horses of Del Mar Race Track warm up and practice.

Kate and Joel are going to be moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee in a few short months after Joel graduates from seminary. Joel will be an associate pastor at a church there and they will both help with the college ministry of the church. We are so excited for them and their calling. Not only for their new adventure and what God has in store for them, but also because we pass through Chattanooga twice a year and will have a few days off each time to visit so later this year we will meet up again. Next time we see them Lily will be on the outside.

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And their off! We had a great view

Beautiful Santa Anita, nestled in the hills

Jockeys and leaders warm up the horses

The horses line up in the gates behind us

January 21st - Santa Anita Park -
After seeing the horses around Kate and Joel's home it inspired Frank to look into the schedule of Santa Anita, located just a few miles from our current home. On finding out that yes there were in fact races scheduled here this time of year we decided to spend today at the track. If you have never been to a horse race you are missing out on great fun and we would highly recommend adding this activity to your agenda at some point. After watching many many races in our past years I have come to realize that yes the horses do enjoy to run as fast as they can for a reasonable length of time. The entire process is an experience in itself. First of all there are roughly nine races in a day which are usually scheduled about a half hour apart. The actual race only takes about 1-4 minutes depending on the length or furlongs that the race is. Once you have arrived inside your racing park of choice you buy a program. This program tells you which horses will race in which race. Next to each list of horses is what they call a "Handicap's Hints" page. This is where the supposed experts on the sport give their opinions on who will win. Today after careful reading of said "hints" we made our decisions on who to wager our high stakes on. We aren't huge bettors, in fact 2 bucks each race is about our limit. This way if we win anything we get super excited, but if we loose the race, 2 bucks is pretty easy to shrug off. In the past we have always gone to Del Mar where apparently their "Handicap's Hints" are a bit more in tune with the horses racing that day since we usually do fairly well with those. Today we pretty much sucked at picking any winners and as a result we lost our entire "betting fund" and after the fourth race decided we should cut our loses and just be observers. Apparently next time we should bet on the exact opposite of the Santa Anita experts. What the heck do they know anyways. Okay back to our "routine of betting". In the past if for some reason none of the "hints" were helpful to us, or we thought that there were greater powers to listen too in order to win we would then go down to the Paddock between each race. This is where they walk the horses around before their race for that day. Yes, each horse only runs one race a day. So in the Paddock after closely looking at the horses, gauging their body shape and taking their muscle condition into careful consideration you realize that you have very little knowledge of horse anatomy and so you pray that one of them might wink at you or whisper to you saying "Don't worry Suzy even though my odds are 80 to 1 and I have never even raced in my entire life, I promise I will win this one for you". Needless to say I have not yet received this message. Perhaps next time I should take the Horse Whisperer course before heading to the track, or take up drinking in the early afternoon in order to help hallucinate this conversation.  Even though we didn't leave the park with the 1.37 million dollar Pick Six grand prize that we were so sure of winning, imagine turning 2 dollars into 1.37 million now that's a return on your money, we did enjoy a nice day outside in the fresh air and had the track practically to ourselves with some of the best seats we have ever had at the races at no additional charge.

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An afternoon with Jay Leno

A very sad bus : (

Every RV shoppers dream

Frank cleans the Funny Car body

January 30th - Phoenix, Arizona - NHRA National Time Trials -
Or should we say we are now leaving the National Time Trials. This has been a very educational weekend. We, who knew nothing about how a Funny Car runs or works, have learned quite a bit. We switched roles from our regular hospitality role to honorary crew members. Above you can see Frank working on cleaning all the tire rubber out from underneath the Funny Car body. After each round we would both wipe down the body underneath and on top and alert the Crew Chief of any damage. We took turns going up to the starting line with the team and car. It is amazing to stand behind these cars on the starting line with only a few feet in between you and the car and watch them tear down the track anywhere from 80mph up to 320. WOW!!. The Time Trials are even better than an actual event since each car takes about 6 runs versus the regular 2, and most of the drivers and crew are a little more relaxed then they are on race day (except for the teams trying to get their licenses), and everyone is trying new things with the engines so the drama is very intense as are the exploding cars. But on the upside only the cars blow up, not the drivers (Thank God).  Our Monster Car had a few hiccups over the weekend, but Monday morning and afternoon we had some great passes and we are now an officially licensed team ready for the new racing season. Yes, to drive and operate a Funny Car or Top Fuel Dragster you must go through a process to get said license. In order to obtain this license you must make at least two passes the full length of the track at a speed of over 250-mph and an E.T. (elapsed time) of less than 5.20 seconds. If this doesn't sound like an accomplishment here is a bit of a parallel. Tomorrow morning walk out to your garage and take your entire engine apart piece by piece and lay it out on your garage floor. Later that same day hire a group of guys that have some understanding of how a car goes together, but have never actually put your type of engine and transmission together, start the process of rebuilding your car. In the parts of your engine lying around on the floor add a few extra pieces. Tell the guys putting your car together that these pieces could either make your car run faster by adding them or they may cause the car to blow to smithereens if they use these parts. Would you be willing to let them put them in your car???? Now after your car is put back together to the best of their ability, take it down the street and instead of slowly breaking it in, once you start the car floor it and drive as fast as you can down your block. What would be the probability of your rebuilt car blowing up??? Let's just say it would be HUGE!!! This is what happens when 8 guys get together to build a brand spankin' new Funny Car. But the upside to the story is that if the car blows to bits enough times you quickly learn what exactly NOT to do, and you slowly but surely learn more of what TO do and you begin to do it well. This is the story of the Monster Funny Car. It is now running fairly well and we hope to have a good year as a result. The other pictures above represent our week off before driving out to Phoenix. One day we drove over to Burbank and attended The Tonight Show. We got there early enough to get a good seat, almost front and center I might add. While on our week off we stayed at Prevost in Mira Loma where they treat you like kings and don't charge you for anything (except for the work on the bus) While at Prevost we learned what exactly happens when some little punk kid throws a Molotov Cocktail under someone's bus. Well needless to say it does an enormous amount of damage and made us almost cry just looking at it. The poor residences of the above bus will be out of a home for about 3 months. I sure hope that the little @#!*% that did this gets what is coming to them. The third picture is of Quartzsite, Arizona. A must see place for anyone who enjoys a two mile farmer's market/flea market. We went with our good friends Kurt and Phyllis and had a blast just looking at all the new gadgets one could buy.

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Party central before the doors opened

The Monster party in full swing

The Monster car during the burnout

Kenny racing down the track

February 10th - Pomona, California - Winternationals-
We officially have the first race of the year under our belt. It was great to get back into the swing of things and kick off a new racing year. We were both getting a bit antsy being in one place too long, however it was quite an emotional weekend. On the upside we had a great turn out of almost 250 people at our first hospitality party of the year. This will probably be the busiest of the year since Corona, California which is just over the hill from Pomona is where the home office of Monster is located, and they were having a nationwide sales meeting this weekend as well. It turned out to be great timing since these are the people that we will be seeing at the different races around the country. It's nice to start out having a few familiar faces to look forward to seeing throughout the rest of the year. Another upside to the weekend is that all of our hospitality tents went up fairly smoothly and after a few days of having the Featherlite team (the guys who built it at the factory flew out to help us) re-drill a few holes and replace a couple poles that they had cut to long we were good to go. As you can see above it is quite a nice setup that the Bernstein's have created for their sponsors. The Budweiser/Lucas Oil Dragster hospitality looks exactly the same, except of course for the color and sponsors represented on the tent, and is just on the other side of the semi from us. The downside of the weekend?? Well our Monster team didn't quite qualify for the race. It was a bit hard to take, but considering it is the first race of the year for a brand new car and a brand new team, it was a bit to be expected. The crew will leave here in a couple days and head to Las Vegas to do some more testing. Frank and I will head to Phoenix, Arizona to do a lot of relaxing. One plus side to being on the hospitality end of things is that the time off between the races is our own time to do what we want and explore where we wish. Say a little prayer that the guys will get a few things dialed in and in Phoenix we will get to race on Sunday! On the bright side, there were a few cars that have been racing Funny Car for years and didn't qualify and an even better upside is that the Budweiser Dragster went to the final round, so we started out great on that side insofar as the points standings. Hopefully Phoenix will be better for the black team.

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Tom, Tuna and Adam

How many people does it take to light 75 candles

Phil and Brad

Ray has a little help from a leaf blower to extinguish his fiery cake

February 11th -  The end of Pomona -
It's good to know that even though we didn't have a great weekend car wise, our Monster team can still have a good time party wise. It was Ray's 75th birthday, he is the Crew Chief of the car, and we celebrated it with a cake that held all 75 candles. It took a few of us to light it, but once it was going you could see it for miles. Good old Ray and his great sense of humor came in to extinguish the fiery flames with a leaf blower to ensure that he got them all in one fell swoop, to improve his chances of his wish coming true. It was a fun way to end the weekend and gave the guys a boost in spirits to take with them to testing.

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Frank and Suzy in 50 years

February 14th - Happy Valentine's Day -
Today was quite a memorable Valentine's Day. Okay, here's the cheesy part of it - My most favorite song ever is "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce. You know, the one that goes "If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do. Is to save everyday 'til eternity passes away, just to spend them with you" I have vivid memories of being a little girl and watching the commercials of the Time Life tapes that held all of the greatest love songs. Every time they would play "Time in a Bottle" I remember thinking 'If only someday someone would sing that to me'. Well my sweet and darling Valentine, who has recently taken up playing the guitar, played the song in it's entirety to me this morning with words and all. It made the little 11 year old in me so happy, along with the 34 year old in me as well. It sounded just like I remember it on the TV commercials. It was a moment I will always treasure. Along with the song came the greatest little jar (that ties in well with the above mentioned song) complete with an old retired couple in a classic motorhome with all their stiff piled on top, including their very scared dog, no we won't try tying the birds to the top of ours anytime soon. The label on the jar reads "Retirement Fund" which is perfect since we are an old retired couple in youthful bodies. I love it!! It now sits by our key basket to hold all the loose change that seems to accumulate. To round out the day, Frank installed a new sink set in our bathroom. The old one was one of the only things that the previous owner didn't change out, and you could tell. It was something that your great grandmother would have had in her bathroom years and years ago. The bathroom now looks brand new, all it needs now is one new hanging towel rack and a soap dish. After those two are done there will be no way to tell anything in here was ever 16 years old. Yes, not to worry, the Valentine fairy visited Frank as well. He got the most beautiful new acoustic guitar with an amazing deep bass sound. It sounds sooo nice. His old one was a Target special and even though he played it very well, the sound quality just wasn't in it.

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This way to relaxation

Aaaaahhhh! Feel those muscles relax

Our cozy campsite

Tomorrow's options for activities! Hmmm, let's play it safe and stick with the zoo.

February 17th - Tonopah Hot Springs, Arizona -
After a few weeks of work with setting up and tearing down all the hospitality tents and awnings, we were due for a bit of relaxing. Good friends or ours, and fellow RVers on the NHRA circuit, Larry and Jeanette, live about 2 miles from here and told us that this is the greatest place to spend a few days if you want to relax and enjoy the quiet of the outdoors the sound of owls and doves all around you and the refreshment of soaking in your own private natural Hot Spring. We have been to the Mineral Springs near our California home, but these are even better, as they have no sulphur smell since there is no mineral element to these Hot Springs. The water is crystal clear and comes right out of the ground at the perfect temperature. This is definitely a place we could stay for a few more days but alas work calls so we will make our way to Phoenix tomorrow and have to visit the Hot Springs again at the end of the year.

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Pictures don't do their size justice

We fed the mama and baby giraffe

She would have been more fun to feed

Don't they just scream pick us up and hug us??

February 18th - Phoenix, Arizona - Wildlife World Zoo -
We spent today at the local zoo here in Phoenix. It was a fun day, and we were able to do and see things that we hadn't seen at other zoos. Take for instance the enormous porcupines. When we first walked to the porcupine exhibit they were hiding underground sleeping. We both thought they were just your average porcupines, so we started to walk away. As we left the area we saw their feeder come by with lunch so we decided to pause for a minute to see if they'd come out. Once the food was on the ground out strolled two African Tipped King Porcupines. Everyone around, including us, was absolutely shocked to see their size. They were literally the size of a cow, only with shorter legs. They seemed like gentle beasts, but I sure wouldn't want to be near them when they were upset. Their quills were each one to two feet long - Ouch! Later on our walk we had the opportunity to feed a mother giraffe and her 5 month old baby, who by the way was already 9 feet tall. They were the funniest eaters. They'd stick out their tongues about a foot up to you and then curl it around so it made the shape of a bowl. After dropping the food onto their tongue they would then proceed to lick all the way up your hand to make sure you weren't holding any back. It was a bit gross at first, but you got used to it after awhile. Our day was completed by a walk around the tiger habitat which housed a very camera friendly mother tiger. As we left the mammal area we walked through an enclosed room, where to our surprise they had two 6 week old baby tiger cubs. What I wouldn't have done to be able to pick one up and feed him. You've never seen anything cuter than a baby tiger. They looked more like a stuffed animal than a big cat.

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The trail along the river in the preserve

An alligator suns himself

Frank and some creative driving

A beautiful hawk in a nearby tree

March 3rd - The Great Outdoors RV Resort  - Titusville, Florida -
Home sweet home. It sure is wonderful to be back here in Florida. The weather is perfect. A beautiful 80 degrees everyday with a nice warm breeze every so often. It stays warm in the evenings, just the right temperature to be able to walk around after dark still in a t-shirt and shorts. We have gone to the pool almost everyday and are getting a nice tan already. Today we drove around the Merritt Island Nature Preserve. They have a 15 mile road that weaves all around a lake. You can either ride your bikes, walk or drive. Since the Jeep has the 'topless' option, we both voted on taking the Jeep. Needless to say that neither of us were feeling quite athletic enough to walk or ride that distance while on vacation. We passed a couple that was looking through high powered binoculars at a tree in the distance. As we slowed down they invited us to take a peak at a nest they were watching. Being the bird lovers that we are we quickly parked the Jeep and took a look. We thought perhaps they had found a Crane's nest or maybe a Hawk, but as we looked into the eyepiece we realized that it was in fact a Bald Eagle's nest with a newly hatched baby with both of the parents sitting on a nearby branch. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Maybe twice in our lives had we caught a glimpse of a Bald Eagle outside of a zoo, but to see the whole family was a rare opportunity. I couldn't quite get my camera to see the angle through the lens so there are no pictures to share, but above are a few other creatures we saw on our expedition. We both sat on top of the roll bar while on our drive and set the Jeep in 4 wheel drive low. This way it drives itself at about 3 mph as Frank steered with his feet. Everyone that passed us got a kick out of it. In fact I think we may have started a new trend with 4 wheeling out here on the nature trail.

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All the golf carts parked at church

Yay! We figured out the timer button

The best way to travel in The Great Outdoors

A Blue Heron patiently waits for lunch as a momma alligator floats behind it.

March 4th -
We had a nice leisurely day with friends. We went to church this morning. That's the best part about our resort. You can go to church, eat out, go to the post office, grocery shop and golf, if your heart desires, without leaving the resort. As you can see in the above picture lots of people ride their golf carts to church, and all the parking spaces in front of the church are just the right size. We rode our bikes, since it isn't too far. After church we went over to Tom and Coni's and had a bar-b-que. They live just a couple streets up from us here at TGO and Rick and LaVerne drove up from Orlando where they are staying while they work at Disney World. After lunch we took a long bike ride around the park and along our very own nature trail that follows the perimeter of the resort. Since we only had 4 bikes, Coni and Rick drove behind us in a golf cart. We stopped off at the bridge to watch a family of alligators teaching their babies to catch fish while a Blue Heron decided on what to have for lunch. The fish that are jumping, or the little alligators that are swimming all around him? Hmmmm how quick could a heron swoop down and pick up a baby alligator out of the water??? Hopefully, for his sake, before momma alligator notices what is going on and leaps out of the water to have a heron for lunch. I think we all distracted them long enough to miss out on the excitement of what may have followed. After returning from the bike ride we decided to drive into town and see Wild Hog's. It was quite an entertaining flick. Frank and I even got in for the senior price. Frank jokingly walked up to the cashier and said "two senior tickets please" and sure enough we got them for the discounted rate. I guess our retirement mindset is beginning to make us look old as well. It may have been for the fact that while Frank is on vacation he doesn't shave and his beard is rather gray. Hey, we saved $4 each!

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We had lunch overlooking the water

The white sandy beach

Cody and Casey

A sweet family of Sandhill Cranes graze

March 7th - Cocoa Beach, Florida -
The beautiful white sand and green and blue waters of the Atlantic ocean. There is no better place to spend a beautiful sunny Florida day. The weather was great. It was almost 85 so we headed to the beach to enjoy the warm water and cool off at the same time. After a bit of sunbathing, we walked out to the end of the pier and had a long lunch of hamburgers margaritas while we watched the surfers ride the waves. On the other side of the pier there was a flock of pelicans, diving into the waves and having what looked like a lot of fun doing so. At first we thought they were fishing, but we soon realized that they were doing it just as much for entertainment as they were looking for fish. If only I could be a pelican for a day, it sure looked fun. After lunch we did a bit of shopping as we walked around the pier. Frank's goal before we leave Florida is to find a new panama hat since his old one has been worn to death and finally had to be thrown out. We had no luck finding him a hat but we did find new bathing suits for both of us at the Cocoa Beach Surf Company. Between the Surf Company and Ron Jon's Surf shop, which between the two take up a little over three blocks, there isn't anything a surfer or beach lover could long for. Earlier this week we spent our days taking long bike rides around the resort. Cody even met a girl parrot named Casey. She is a Harlequin Macaw, which is mix between a Green Wing, which is what Cody is, and a Blue and Gold. She was beautiful. Her feathers were orange where Cody's are red, even the little feathers around her face. He can't wait to visit her again next year. On one of our rides around the park we followed the cutest little family. They were Sand Hill Crane's. Both mom and dad were walking all over the park looking for worms in the ground as their two stripped babies followed. The little ones can't yet fly so the mom and dad were very protective. Cody kept trying to walk up to them but they kept their distance from him. He has now mastered how to hang onto the handlebars of Frank's bike and enjoys our morning rides. Bradley's favorite thing to do here is fish with Frank in the lake in our backyard while Abbey, the chicken won't go anywhere without being attached to Suzy.

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A ride around Plantation makes a happy bird

We took a break by one of the lakes

Frank and Bradley go fishing

A family portrait

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We took a safari ride around the park

A sleeping lion with all four paws straight up

Another one of Frank's self portraits - lean in LaVerne, lean in

March 8th - Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida -
Thanks to our great friends Rick and LaVerne, who have been working here at Disney for a few months, the six of us were able to visit Mickey Mouse and friends all day at the different parks while Mickey picked up the tab. We started out in Disney's Animal Kingdom, where they took us on a safari ride through the wilds of Africa. Along the way we saw all sorts of animals including a sleeping Lion that was passed out on his back with his feet straight up in the air. I've had a few house cats in the past that slept the exact same way. There was a baby elephant walking with his mama and herds of antelope and zebras. We saw a swarm of alligators all sleeping in the sun and a family of hippos splashing each other in the water. Our safari vehicle was an elongated Jeep with open sides so you didn't miss a thing. They had a new ride since we had been there last called Everest. It was a little like the Matterhorn at Disneyland, but a bit better. At one place you come to an area where the tracks are all broken and torn apart by the Yeti that is supposed to be a mythological animal until he jumps out of the mountain at you. At this time the ride begins to go backwards through a dark tunnel. All of a sudden your train again comes to a stop and the Yeti is now on the tracks in front of you grabbing down. He was enormous and just as you are telling yourself "this is just a ride, he isn't real" he leaps down and right before he grabs you the train speeds up and he just barely misses you. It was quite an adventure. After Animal Kingdom we hopped on a tram and spent a few hours at MGM Studios where they have another great ride. The Hollywood Tower of Terror. It is an old abandoned hotel straight out of a Twilight Zone episode with a haywire elevator. As soon as it hits the 13th floor the elevator goes crazy and launches you up and down about 6 or seven times as various doors and windows to the outside open and close so you are sure you are going to plummet out of one of these windows at any time. The best part is that you get to scream like a little kid and not have people think you are either crazy or getting killed. Later that evening...

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The sweet baby elephant we saw on our safari

Mount Everest off in the distance

Frank and Cody watch in amazement as the rocket soars into the night sky

We had dinner at Mickey's Sports Bar and then headed back home. One of the perks of our property on Windsong Way is that it is 10 miles dead West of Cape Canaveral. Therefore the rare times that a Space Shuttle or rocket does launch from Kennedy Space Center we are able to sit in our own backyard and watch it. Until tonight we were never here at the time that the Shuttles or rockets launched, but this evening we lucked out. There were no delays and no cancellations. At 10:10 the rocket Atlas 5, carrying 6 satellites for the U.S. Military, launched from the Cape and we were able to see it, hear it, and even feel a bit of it. When it was ignited the entire night sky lit up and the ground shook. Within just moments it was up in the air where we could see it as plain as day, and about 3 minutes later it was out of sight. It's amazing to think how far out there the rocket was going. Even Cody was mesmerized by the light in the sky. Hopefully someday we will be able to see the Space Shuttle launch from our home as well. That will be amazing!

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Body surfing! Good thing the sand was soft

Philly shows off her impromptu swimsuit

A floating manatee peaks up at us

I could listen to him play for hours

March 13th -
As our time here comes to a close we decided to hit the beach one last time. We went out to Playa Linda Beach just 8 miles from us. The water here is even bluer and warmer than Cocoa. Kurt and Philly came out with us as well. The waves were the perfect size to body surf in so Frank and I enjoyed that. On our drive home we stopped at a little cove where the manatees hang out and watched them swim around. They look pretty much like a swimming elephants. They are rather funny looking creatures but seem very gentle. We bar-b-qued at Kurt and Philly's place and sat outside and watched the sunset as Frank serenaded us with the guitar. He has about 6 songs that he can play now and is really very good at it. I think the alligators even enjoyed listening.

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March 18th - Gatornationals -
Yaaaaaaaaahhhhoooooo!!!! Our green team had a terrific weekend. Not only did we qualify this weekend which by the way for those of you who don't follow the racing circuit we unfortunately haven't done at the last two races, we won the first two rounds of the race on Sunday.  Not only we did we get to participate in the race, we beat some pretty good guys both  rounds.  The smiles on our teams faces were priceless. These guys have been working so hard, and now all of their hard work has paid off.

As most of you know Kenny did hire a new crew chief and assistant to run the team, which as you can tell by this weekend's race  was a very wise decision. Kenny and the green team are a happy bunch of boys!!!

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He was never without a smile

and he always loved the fans

Eric won many Wally's for the Force team

A half mast flag at the Force shop

Prayer request -  
On a very sad note, one of our fellow Funny Car drivers, Eric Medlen, had a horrible crash during testing on Monday after the race in which his car hit the guard wall. Eric was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he underwent two separate surgeries to help with the damage and swelling of his closed head injuries. After four days and no improvement his family decided to follow Eric's previously discussed wishes and removed him from life support since the injuries he sustained were so great and the activity in his brain was gone. This is an incredibly sad day for the NHRA and Eric will be greatly missed by everyone, especially his ever present smile. We know that he went out of this world doing what he loved by following his passion and now is in a wonderful place. Please say a prayer for his family and teammates at John Force Racing, as they go through the grieving process. Eric was only 33 years old. At times like these words cannot express how thankful Frank and I are that we are able to be out here doing something that we love so much and that we are doing it together. Thank you God!

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Buddy the vicious guard dog

Watch out for speed bumps

The birds were just on our heads

March 21st - Jasper, Alabama - Visiting Chris and Maria -
As we find ourselves with another week off in between races we are spending a few days with our good friends Chris and Maria. They too work out on the road. They help run the 'Rollin O' which is slang for the mobile Oakley store that attends all of the NHRA events. Alabama is a very pretty state and where they live is wonderful. It's far enough away from town to be quiet in the evenings, yet close enough to town to quickly get anywhere you want to. Today we went to the zoo with the four of us and Chris' little brother. Maria and Suzy fed the little Lorikeets, who were hilarious to watch fight over whose cup of pollen they would eat from. Alex and Frank got to see just what it was like to be inside a Rhino crate for travel, however they weren't quite able to tear through the wood with their noses as the Rhino's did. There were about four holes where the Rhino's tusk had gone through in an attempt to escape. Chris and Maria have the best dog. His name is Buddy and he is full of personality. Every morning and every evening he would be at our door greeting us. When we would drive away he would run as fast as he could trying to keep up with the car, and as soon as the car got ahead of him he would bark at us like crazy and then tear into the neighbors yard that lives at the end of the street and chase the five cats that live there around the yard till he was tired or got yelled at by the cat's owner and would head back home. We were quite entertained by him. Especially the mornings we would try and go somewhere but couldn't due to the fact that he was fast asleep under our wheel. If you didn't know any better some mornings you might think he was road kill.

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Frank tries to turn on the boilers

Suzy poses as a crane operator

Frank the tour guide

16th Street Baptist Church being rebuilt

March 23rd - Birmingham, Alabama - Sloss Furnaces -
What was a full working steel mill from 1876 until 1971 and employed over two thirds of the town's men for 5 generations, is now a Historic Landmark here in Birmingham, Alabama. They have left it pretty much like it was back then with a few buildings reconstructed to how they were. It was a great tour in the fact that they hand you a map that tells you all of the highlights and then let you take it from there. Apparently Fridays are a bit slow because we had the entire place to ourselves. The Power House, the far left picture, is where they housed all of the generators that ran the whole place. They let you walk through all of the old turbines and steam generators. It was amazing to see how it all worked, considering back in 1876 modern technology didn't consist of a diesel generator. The building behind the crane to the left in the second picture is the furnace and cast shed where all the limestone, iron ore and coke were boiled together to make the steel. Yes coke was a main ingredient in steel making. Makes you rethink wanting to drink one ever again after reading about what it does to iron ore let alone your stomach. Ick!  The claws that Frank are standing next to are actually old skip cars that transported the different ingredients into the cast shed since it was too hot for any man to get close to. Due to that fact that a lot of pipes are now made out of plastic or PVC, the steel mills were closed down due to the lack of money coming in and the unhealthy air that was released by them. It's nice to see that some things are left for future generations to see. This old steel mill came very close a few times to being torn down only to be replaced by a shopping center or amusement park. We are all for a good roller coaster now and then, but it's better to learn a little bit about how a city came to be and the people and jobs that made it what it is today. Without this steel mill coming into existence over 100 years ago Birmingham would never have been the city it is today. We finished up our tour of Birmingham by stopping at the 16th Street Baptist Church, the far right picture, which now stands as a memorial to the four little black girls killed in 1963 when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the church. Just up the street is the Civil Rights Institute where they still have the old segregated drinking fountains and bathroom doors that were removed from the actual city's downtown area, along with the bus that was part of the infamous Rosa Park's refusal to move seats and an old jail cell that held Martin Luther King Jr.

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March 24th - Back in Jasper, Alabama - Lake Smith and the Power Plants -
Hey that sounds like the latest new rock group name. The four of us, Chris, Maria, Frank and I took a nice scenic drive today all around the lake including both sides of the dam and the power plant that is between them. It was a gorgeous day. The weather was a perfect 82 degrees so we took the top down in the Jeep and enjoyed the fresh air. I must apologize to our friends Gary and Kathy in the cold northwest. They have brought to our attention a few times in the last month just how darn cold it is in New Hampshire and the fact that we have been spending time where the temperature doesn't hit the lows of the north. We will say one of the best parts of the NHRA is that they can't really have a race where the temperature gets too far below 60 so we are always in a fairly nice climate. We do however get our fair share of rain and a few chilly mornings for us Californians. I think the high the other day in New Hampshire was about 4 degrees for them. Well, Gary and Kathy, may the good weather fairies blow some of this great sunshine your way. Rumor has it, just a couple days ago was the first day of Spring, so I hope for all of you northern east coasters the weather is living up to its promise of no more winter. Hey remember you two, you can always come to a race to warm up. Well, back to our story of the day. Lake Smith is a lot like Lake of the Ozarks in the fact that there are lots of beautiful homes all around the lake and many of them with private docks. It is an enormous lake with lots of fun coves to wakeboard in or go for a swim. We have added this as a location as one of the possibilities of a summer home. We aren't sure if it will ever to come to pass, to actually have a summer home, but it sure is fun to look at all of the lakes around the country. Believe me, we have ruled many of them out so far.  After finishing our little tour of the Lewis Smith Dam and realizing just how powerful water is, and the fact that it can power two good sized towns off of one little dam, we headed back to Chris and Maria's for Suzy's almost famous chicken enchiladas and the movie 'A Good Year' starring Russell Crowe. We will spend a couple more days here relaxing, and then we will head to Houston, TX. The tracks in Texas have been very good for our Budweiser car, so let's hope the winning streak continues and perhaps rubs of on the Monster team as well. TTFN

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Watch out America, Suzy's at the wheel

Trees here are the most amazing colors

and the rest areas are beautiful parks

March 26th - The open road -
The drive to Texas from Alabama is beautiful, minus the stretch of Highway 10 that goes through Louisiana. But on an up note they are fixing Highway 10 so hopefully next year when we make this trek it will be smooth sailing. For those of you who are long time subscribers you might remember the grass that was growing between the cement partitions that formed the freeways here in Louisiana last year. For those of you who missed it you will have the check it out in order to believe the quality of roads. In order to see the pictures showing the horrors of the roads in Louisiana you will have to flashback to the 2006 March journal. Speaking of flashbacks, I have recently been fortunate enough to catch up with an old friend from high school. Her name is Stephanie and she is now a writer and a 'theologian who studies day to day matters in the workplace'. I was lucky enough to be her latest study subject due to our peculiar yet ever so interesting lifestyle. You too can check out our interview on her blog by clicking the following link. Surviving the workday  We stayed at the most beautiful rest area last night. There was a little gazebo surrounded by grass and flowers that we almost took the birds to with Frank and the guitar, but the sun was setting, and they get a little nervous once dusk approaches and their outdoor vision lessens. One thing about the South is that the rest areas and welcome centers are beautiful. They are nicer than a few of the actual RV parks that we drove by and better yet, they are free to stay at. You can't beat that.

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