Rookie Driver for 2021

Having recently attained my NASA competition license, this allows me to join in some wheel to wheel action. This is a lot different then DE or TT. DE sessions are for fun, no competion, and passing with point bys. TT is competition but you are racing against the time. Wheel to wheel, you competing with other drivers in your class for position.

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Driving lines are different compared to TT. In TT you take the fastest line to get the fastest time, and cars are spaced out according to time, and you might not pass a car. In wheel to wheel, you change lines consistently during battle with another car in your class. Its all about not giving a passing advantage to the competitor or vise versa where you have to find a line to pass a competitor. While being being able to control your car at speed with other drivers next to you.

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In the classing, the cars are evenly matched especially in the spec classes. The super touring class, there is some leeway, and you have different types of cars in super touring. But for the most part, its really based on driver skill.

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I signed up for NASA season opener to start out the 2021 tracking season. This is my first time doing wheel to wheel in my AE86 and also getting my 86 inspected for wheel to wheel. I recently added door bars to my 6pt autopower roll cage to make it compliant with NASA tech. The people that inspect your car for NASA racing, makes sure the car is safe to go racing, and I am glad I went with autopower for a cage. Its not the best fitting cage for my size, but on a budget it works just fine. The guys are NASA that techs your car are supper strict and follow the rule book to the tee. They will not let you race if they find an safety issue with your car, until you fix it. I’m glad they are strict, because at least you know your car is safe to race once it passes tech.

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Doing this wheel to wheel event has showed me that I still have a lot to work on as a driver, and grow more with the 86. The car definitely has room to modify and be more competitive in its class; like lose 200 lbs and run stickier tires. But right now, Im going to keep on racing mostly the way it is. I’ll just fiddle with suspension dampening, and tire pressures. I want to grow more as a driver, then when its time, I’ll start to mod the car to be competitive in its class.

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I wil be posting some of the racing footage, on youtube. Keep an eye out. Thanks for reading!

Sulpher Springs

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We camped in the hill country 2 weeks before this trip and when our friends were planning a trip, we had to join. Camping in central Texas around January-April is perfect, to enjoy the outdoors. The Texas heat isn’t beating down on you. The chilly night is perfect for the campfire to warm you up as you sip on whiskey.

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My friends and drove from Houston. I met up with them later in the morning in Llano, Tx. We planed for an overnight stay at Sulphur Spring, Tx. This camp site has 5 sites, and nice views of the Texas hill country with the Colorado River in the background.

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When we arrived, we were bummed to find out that only one camp area was available to the public. Unfortunately, the recent rains washed out the trail leading to other campsites. The owner wouldn’t let us go to the other sites, and that is understandable. If one of us got stuck or if a another vehicle followed us and got stuck, it wouldn’t be fun.  There is no tow, or recovery after the 1st campsite.

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We made the most of the situation, and camped in secluded area further from the other campers. The spot was big enough to accommodate all of the rigs. The trail to the campsite was pretty easy, and splashed around in a few mud puddles.

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Last weekend, it snowed here, and I was thinking how nice that must have been. But a nice clear day is also hard to beat.

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Lambo was too excited around the campsite, and took him for a walk. Lambo explored around, and marked his territories. After a bit of walking, he calmed down and was good bear for the rest of the day. My wife and I continued on to check out the trail that was blocked off to vehicles.

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Kinda wish the rest of the trail was open becuase the views got better. Another reason to come back.

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We walked about 1 mile into the trail, but I was told it about 5 miles long. The trail looked like some part would be tough for 2wd vehicles. More of the adventure.

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We walked back to camp, just as the sun was starting the set. Lambo, chilling in his cover, because no one wants a dirty dog in the sleeping in the sleeping bag.

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My snowpeak grill putting in the work gilling up fish, and toasting bread. Mike was cooking some vetnamiese dishes. We always eat good when we camp with Mike.

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As the sun started to disappear, you could start to feel the cold coming in. I looked at the forecast prior to the trip, and expected lows of 33F in the hill country.

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I’ve been always a whisky guy and I think it the best liquor for camping. You can drink it neat, or on the rocks. Plus you don’t need chill whiskey before you drink it. Have you drank beer when it warm?

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Whiskey and campfire kept me warm.

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I prefer to camp with friends, a bit more, then camping solo. The solitude is nice, but with friends it makes it feel like you’re not too alone.

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Ever-since we got the Roofnest, we have been camping almost once a month. I think Im getting my moneys worth.

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We recently bought a 0F sleeping bag, and its thick! The size sleeping bag can comfortably fit 2 people and a dog inside. We bought this bag becuase the other 50F sleeping bag wasn’t rated for the cold very well. The 0F bag kept us nice and warm. I only had my thermals and had a great night sleep.

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We woke up to warmth of the sun’s rays and flow of the Colorado river. This one my favorite parts about camping. No sense of time, you know to wake with the sun rises, and sleep when the sun goes down.

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Lambo enjoying the morning, and his new camping scarf from our friends at Sewmuchswag. https://www.etsy.com/shop/sewmuchwag. Thanks Cathy and Branden!

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After a big brunch, it was time to head back to the city and jobs so we can do it all over again!

Thanks for reading!

Camping Texas Hill Country

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Racing, and attending track at events, isn’t cheap. Instructing helps cut cost, but I don’t do it often. I work overtime, and on my free time, it’s making stickers, or working on my car. There are times where you take time for yourself, and relax. My wife, and I schedules aligned which gave us a couple days off together. Perfect timing to go out together.

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Growing up in Austin, I was close to the Texas hill country. I have driven the country roads and even explored some parts of the Texas overlanding route in the Land Cruiser 3 years ago. But never camped.

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January weather in the hill country is chilly during the night. During the day it gets to a pleasant 65F and down to 30F at night. My wife and I are not into the cold, but Lambo loves this kind of weather. Texas hill country is vast, with pleasant views, but majority of it is private land. You have to ask permission from the land owners if it is okay to camp.

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I used this app called HipCamp to find a camping spot. The app is like AirBnb, spots ranging from glamping, RV sites, down to bare bones primitive camping. They very in prices depending how well equipped you want your camping spot and location. We did primitive camping, because it’s most secluded from the crowds, nicer views, and cheaper then the other options.

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Taking the main roads from Houston to the camping spot was about 4 hrs. We took the back country dirt roads, which added an 1hr to the drive. We didn’t mind. The views less traveled is often the better view. Drove through limestone hills, passed small river crossings, and the occasional livestock along the side of the trail. It rained couple days ago, and some parts of the trail was muddy. The Land Cruiser went though it with ease. The main thing when taking the back roads, is not crossing though private property. Their are signs littered all around, marking private property. So make sure you read the posted signs, and stay on the main dirt road.

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We continued to drive though the dirt road and saw the marked entrance to the campsite. We continued on and the eventually lead to the fire pit marking the campsite. We reached our camping spot, with couple of hours daylight left.

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We set up camp, and I started the campfire. We kept dinner simple with instant noodles, which was perfect for the cold night. As temperatures continued to drop, the campfire and whiskey kept us warm.

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Eventually the fire started to die down, and was time to sleep. Away from the warmth of the campfire, we noticed how cold it got. I recently got a nice wool blanket from work, and what a perfect time to test it out. The cold was soo cold that it wasn’t enough. Learning from past experiences, we came prepared. Ultimately we had 3 layers of blankets and wore our jacket. Lambo cuddled next to us, providing extra warmth.

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The next day, the warm rays of the sun woke us up. The thing I also like about camping, besides the views, is it puts you in a circadian rhythm. You sleep when the sun goes down, and wake up when the sun rises. So refreshing and relaxing, and not having to look at the watch to wake up.

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People ask us often, how to do you use the bathroom? We have a portable toilet seat where you put a plastic bag to do your business. Then add kitty litter to the waste, and tie it up. All in the privacy of the green avocado tent. I rather to do that, then do my business in a public restroom, or port-a-potty.

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After doing the morning bathroom business it was time to pack up. Since we are in the hill country, it would be a shame if we didn’t get BBQ. We headed to Coopers Old Time BBQ in Llano, Tx. They open at 11am, but there was already a line when arrived at 11. The employees saw Lambo, and gave him some BBQ. He is soo food driven. Once you give him food, he will be your best friend. The BBQ was very good, haven’t had Texas BBQ for sometime now. I did miss it. We got extra, because we visited my parents before heading back to Houston.

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It was a short overnight camping trip but a much needed one. I track a lot and miss time from my wife and Lambo. I haven’t seen my parents for months even though we live 3 hours away. You have to balance that out, and spend time with your loved ones.

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Project AE86… Final Thoughts

If y’all have been following me on my journey, the AE86 has been a project that honestly took way longer to finish and more money I thought I would put in. Tackling a project car is very hard, and nothing ever really goes your way. Expect the worse and hope for the best.

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I got this AE86 on Feb 2018. It had a full interior, AC, and full GTS swap. Back then, AE86 where not that expensive. I sold my M3 after tracking it for 3 years, The M3 was a great car, but it expensive to maintain if you track once or twice a month. The miata was just too common, and I wanted to be different. You dont see many AE86 at circuits, and consumables are very cheap compared to the M3.

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The project AE86 sure had its lows. From 2018-till the end of 2019 it was tough. I stripped all the interior and only kept the dash. Then I replaced the suspension, wheel bearings, replaced the fluids, and new brake pads and rotors. I redid the interior harness, and bought TE37 just for the track. Did a lot of preventive maintenance, and some cooling upgrades. All the bolt on stuff was pretty much done by Jan 2019.

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But the motor was the major issue. The car came with a small port 4age 16v with a ITBS and Megasquirt ECU. The motor would turn on for a brief moment and then die. The wiring on the car wasn’t that great and the Megasquirt ECU was outdated. Nothing was working right. My friends and I couldn’t figure out why it was doing that. I just started replacing parts left and right without really diagnosing the issue.

Then I hit up RNR Autosport in Malaysia. The guys at RNR Autosport made a custom engine harness that was paired to the LINK ecu, and all the parts for the to set it for coil on plug conversion. Took about 2 months and was worth the wait. So with a new engine harness, and ECU the car started, but wasnt running right. Kept backfiring, and would smoke like steam locomotive.

I just thought it just needed a tune, and it will be fine. Well, I was completely wrong. Some time has passed at this point. I got the car Feb 2018 and now I got to run on Jun 2019. I’m over 1 yr into this project.

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At the shop, we did a compression and leak down test. And my compassion was bad, below 100psi on 2/4 cylinders. I was bummed out. All that money put into the car to finally get it running. Then to find out, the motor is bad. Epic fail.

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I’ve sunk too much into it, that I couldn’t give up. Or I could just sell it for cheap and cut my loses. Luckily Harris had a 4age 16V big port motor for sale, and sold it to me for cheap. Learning my lesson about the past motor, I went and did a compression test. The motor was running when it was taken off the car but it sat in the garage for awhile. The compression test wasn’t that good.  I had big differences between the cylinders.

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The joys of having old cars. At this point point, I think almost every 4age needs a rebuild. Since the motor is out, and not wanting to repeat the same mistakes, I took apart the motor and ruibilt it. Not having any engine building experience what so ever. Just had YouTube, and the OEM Toyota repair manual.

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I took the dissembled motor to Scroggins Machine Shop where they cleaned it, and checked to make sure all the parts are useable. I ended up putting new rings, head studs, and bearings. Then resealed the motor with OEM Toyota gaskets.

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AT this time, it was August 2019. I have fresh motor that I rebuilt. I was nervous that I might have missed a step or make a noob mistake on the reassembly process. I ended up just letting the car sit on jack stands, for awhile. My motivation was at all time low. I put the car up for sale in its disassembled state.

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Around Oct 2019, I put a reservation for a new Tesla Model 3. The AE86 wasn’t selling for the price I would let it go for. I realized I need to get the 86 running, so I can move it and put the Tesla in the garage. The Land Cruiser, at the time, still fits my garage, and was planning to move the 86 outside. So one October weekend, I mated the tranny to motor. Then I placed it in the engine bay all by myself. It was a buttery smooth process.

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The next day, I wired it all up and moment of truth, she started right up!!! No hesitation, backfires, or smoking!

I screamed for joy, and was best feeling in the world. I got my motivation back to finish the car! By December 2019 the car was street tuned by Brad. She finally running on her own power. The motor break in process went smooth. I just had some minor leaks that I fixed up.

Then January 2020, I went on my first track day with the AE86 and never looked back. I had growing pains, but it was all minor and not heavy on the wallet. Been tacking for 5 years and 1yr of that is in the AE86. This car has taught me a lot as a driver, and learned about the mechanics of this car. I do admit its fairly easy to work on with no need for special tools. She runs and drives good, and thats all I really care about. Looking forward to 2021. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see y’all at the track!

California: Last Track Day of the Year

Lets face it, the year 2020 for the most part has been terrible. Almost went into World War 3, Kobe passed away, economy tanked, and the Corona Virus pandemic seem to continue on with no relief in site. New laws, and social distancing, it feels like we are living in a dystopian universe. When will things go back to normal?

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Im honestly not sure when things will go back normal, where we don’t need to wear masks, venues and resturants can be at 100% capacity, or international travel will open up. But we can adapt to the situation and make the most of it. I didn’t let the 2020 hardships get to me, I still had some goals I wanted to attain, and just pushed forward. Made some sacrifices to focus on my goals for this year.

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Having recently attained my competition license, and with NASA season over this year. I was invited to track with Dog House Garage at Buttonwillow. The original plan was to track there with other drivers from Houston, Tx. Unfortunately everyone back out, but that didn’t stop me. I was going regardless, because I do it for the experience and memories. I want to improve my driver resume, and one day get paid to race.

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My friend Mike, this year, quit his job at Tesla to focus on his detailing business full time. I give him major props, fully committed with the current economy, were things are uncertain. Then recently, he bought an enclosed trailer for business to transport cars. Naturally I hit him up to transport my AE86 to California and back.

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My other friend Kevin tagged along for the journey. I was thinking of flying, but I didnt want to leave the homies. Next time, I am booking a flight, because the drive to California and back is just brutal. Nothing but endless roads, and Texas is just soo big to cross through.

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We left Wednesday morning, and about 3 hrs into the trip we heard a thud in the back of the trailer while stopping for gas. We checked on the AE86, and find out it came loose from the straps and the front bumper was damage. Mike felt very bad, but I wasn’t mad because at least it was the bumper and nothing else got damage. Bumpers are replaceable, and I can still drive with no bumper.

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I posted online to see if we can maybe get a bumper on the way to California. Well, my friend Thaison was only an hour away from the gas station, and let my borrow his mint JDM front bumper. Before, the bumpers where cheap, and now people are asking 1k plus for them. I was very thankful Thaison trusted me to use his bumper. I have to look good for the photos, rep Texas, and Natsukashi Garage.

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We then continued to head to California, and making a stop at Las Cruses, NM. We arrived at midnight, and was 30F outside. Tired, and cold but the Airbnb RV we stayed kept us warm, and slept for 5 hrs before heading back on the road.

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Day 2, we drove another 12hrs and made it to California! Averaged 6-8mpg, thankfully gas right now is about $2.50 per gallon average. The Airbnb we had didn’t have enough room to park the truck and trailer in the driveway. But thankfully, we had enough space to park in the street. The next day, we headed to Buttonwillow for the Dog House Garage event.

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First time at Buttonwillow, but I did watch some youtube videos so at least I know where Im going around the track. Not look like a total noob. A lot nice cars came out for the Dog House Garage track event. These are cars, with expensive parts but the drivers are still tracking them. Thats what I like about the track scene in California. People are actually tracking cars that are track modified for that purpose. In Texas, you see a lot of track inspired builds but most are hard parked. I get that side because you don’t want to ruin it by some off excursion at the track. But tracking a car is more legit to me, and more fun then just flexing in a parking lot.

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I met a lot great people at Dog House and the organizers were welcoming. It was a HPDE event but had a Time Attack style to it. Some of the drivers compete in time attack and out fine tuning their cars. The track has a mix of tight 2nd gear corners to blind elevation changes, to long straights with fast sweepers. The run off here is very forgiving, but you throw a lot of dust if you do go off.

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I managed a 2:14.6 at Buttonwillow. Its not the slowest, but not the fastest either. First time out and I was pleased with that time. I was 2 seconds faster then a Type R, but then again the local drivers hit sub 2 mins in their Type R too haha. I have a lot to improve as a driver, but also shows driver mod is the best mod to get faster.

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Dog House Garage provided food for the drivers, and had a raffle after lunch with nice swag give aways. Im talking, ST suspension, Sparco bags, Personal wheel, gift vouchers. This is something I need to do for the Driven and Blessed driving events back home.

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Shout out to Thaison for letting me borrow his rare expensive JDM bumper. I could have tracked with no bumper but, I wouldn’t get cool shots like this.

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After the Dog House Garage event, we dropped off the trailer and headed back into LA because the guys at VIS racing had an available bumper for my AE86. We met at 10pm at a restaurant parking lot to pick up the bumper. They knew I had a track event that day, and saved the last bumper for me. Super cool dudes, and now I have my own bumper!

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The next day I headed down to Streets of Willow for the Topak Racing Event. This was just coincidence. Jomar is one of the organizers for Topak Racing, and saw I was in California. He messaged me about the Streets of Willow event, and of course I’m always down for track days. Last time I was with Topak Racing was 3 yrs ago in the M3. It was good to be back.

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Streets of Willow is a track suited for the lower HP cars, and abrasive to the tires. I rotated the tires after my 2nd session to even out the wear better. They tend to wear faster on the driver side then in the passenger side. The flowing corners and harsh runs off is similar style to touge canyon runs in the mountains. Very Initial D like.

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The Topak Racing track event seemed to bring out the old school Toyotas and cars out. Most of them where OG corolla guys before facebook or instagram.

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This has the original CYB fenders, with a JDM 3sge head on a Camry bottom end.

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I believe the owner said it was making about 200whp on low boost. Awesome looking car.

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This track seems to give the FWD cars home advantage. I was in an intense battle with the Hondas. Its open passing in my run group, and they did pass me. I talked to drivers to find out their times today was in the sub 1 min and 30 second range.

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Unfortunately couldn’t beat that time. My predictive lap timing was showing I was -0.35 second faster but I went off course on the bowl. Ended scuffing up Thaison rare bumper.

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I felt super bad and pretty much the same way Mike felt when my bumper got smashed. Thankfully it was just scuffs on the bumper and few bent metal tabs for the lip. Still bummed, and that what happens when you keep going for the limit.

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After that off excursion I dialed it back and was more careful. I didn’t put my bumper on from VIS racing because I didn’t have the mounting tabs for it haha. I managed a 1:34.3 as my fastest time. Only 1.8 seconds slower in the M3 when I was out here 3 yrs ago.

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Since I knew I couldn’t get into the sub 30 second range, I said to myself, might as well look good for the gram. So I just drifted to last corner on the last session. If I had more time, I think I could have broke the sub 30 mark. Another reason to come back.

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As the day came to an end, I bumped into Sung Kang! He was actually at the event driving!! He came by to say hi and complimented the 86! Nice guy and signed my friend’s trailer! I was sooo star stuck, and glad I went on this trip. I hope next year, I’ll get some wins from racing, and maybe bag some sponsors. Then maybe instruct for other organizations too. 2020 is a year to remember.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: Kevin, and Cali Photography.

Tracking into the Deep End

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I’ve been attending track days for some years now, and always loved it. I track once a month and was my way to destress from work and calms me down driving in city streets. I learned a lot over the years and made me a better driver at the track and street.

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This December, I saw a NASA event that had the competition eval course at Eagles Canyon Raceway. This was 3 day event, and and accelerated program to get your racing license. Not recommend for new drivers, only for HPDE4 and Time Trial drivers. The first day you get classroom time in the morning. It goes over he rules and regulations for racing, and passing. They don’t teach race craft. After the classroom, there is an 50 question exam on NASA rule book for racing. In the afternoon, you will do some practice drills and then a mock race at the end of the day.

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If you pass the test and not have any incidents by the end of the 1st day, you are well on you way to get your racing license. They will give you provincial license, and join the races for day 2 and 3. The provisional license isn’t a competition license. The provisional license allows you race in your region only. In order to attain a comp license, you need to do 4 races without incident. After each race, the race director signs your card. After 4 signatures, you get your competition license. The competition license allows you race nationally in any NASA events.

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You have to place large orange “R” markings around the car and a big orange sticker on the back to show to the other racers that you are a rookie. Once you do 8 races without incident and make sure to get the race director signatures from the 8 races. You can remove the orange markings and “R” but you are still a rookie for the 1st year.

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My AE86 wasn’t ready safety wise for wheel to wheel, but I really wanted my racing license. I went to Dennis who rents out a spec Miata for competition or HPDE. This is his website: http://www.rentalmiata.com. The car is a spec miata that is all ready for track use.

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This was my first out at this track and also driving a spec Miata. I knew my track experience will help me, and knowing your limits. Of course, I was nervous, but sometimes in order to get what you want, you have to step out your comfort zone.

Each day are set up in 4 sessions. 1st session is a warm up, 2nd is qualifying for grid. Session 3 and 4 are the races. You have one drivers meeting and that is after the qualifying. The drivers meeting talks about starting format, and other rules that might be added for the races.

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I camped in the paddock located in Decatur, Tx. Every morning I woke to the frosty cold. Then the last night, it rained. Thankfully, the Miata rental was covered and stayed dry. My Roofnest tent putting in work, since I bought it. Learning from past cold experiences, I layered up in the cold, and thankfully stayed warm and dry.

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I finished my 4th race, and received my competition license! I can race wheel to wheel in any NASA event, and for the most the license allows me to join other w2w events. I will be setting up the AE86 to get up to spec for wheel to wheel safety wise. 2021 will be the start of my rookie season! Hope to see y’all at the track!

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I want to thank Will for letting borrow his trailer, Dennis for letting me rent the Miata, and all my track homies for pushing and inspiring me! Special thanks to my wife, because she supports my hobby 100%.

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I got to say wheel to wheel racing is next level. The adrenaline rush is nothing like I’ve experienced before. Nothing bad, all good vibes. 

Colorado Expedition: Deeper into the Mountains

Day 4 started with a plan to pick up the fuel pump and a new battery. Both Mikes woke early to heard into town. While we waited, Cathy and Theresa cooked breakfast tacos. I made sure to cover the ashes from yesterdays campfire. Along the mountain road we saw the occasional early travelers passing by.

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When the Mikes came back, we started to work on the GX. We installed the new battery and fuel pump. Pretty quick and easy with the big hole that was cut yesterday. We let the fuel pump prime and it was the moment of truth.

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Gave the GX a couple of cranks, and then the sweet smooth sound of the V8 purring. I wish I got it on video because everyone was just jumping for joy. I never felt this excited and relief since I did my first motor swap. Now everyone is ready for a day of adventure.

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We all packed up and said goodbye to the campsite. This site would be something to remember.

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Todays campsite route would take us to a hot spring we passed yesterday. Colorado is known for hot springs and it was something to check out while here. The water wasn’t surprising hot and was crystal clear. You could see the mineral formation where the water rain though. The dogs were being mischievous. I didn’t mind babysitting them, while the other took pictures.

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After that quick detour we continued on. The drive was about 4hrs total. From here on, its just mostly dirt roads and driving on famous mountain passes.

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The site I pinned, was near Ryan’s campsites he had marked as back ups. Today was a Friday, and the entrance to the trail was pretty packed. It felt like peak season in Colorado, but that is also why we have 4x4s. We can venture deeper into the trail to hopefully find more secluded spots that normal SUVs or cars can’t get into.

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The trail was pretty long and it was pretty packed up to the last established campsite. Then there was a rougher dirt road that said 4×4 high clearance recommended. That was a good sign, hopefully less people there.

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It got more steep and rough in certain spots. I put the Land Cruiser into 4L to decrease strain on the motor and transmission.

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We arrived to my pin location, and the whole area was generally packed. Kind of a bummer, with very limited spots. Being 5 rigs deep was another problem to make sure we had enough space. Thankfully we did find a nice big open area.

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We immediately took the spot and Branden went deeper to potentially find a better spot. Branden eventually radio in to us he found another spot, but wanted another rig to check it out. So Mike with the Tacoma went and then radioed another person to see if it was doable. Then Mike with the GX went to check it out.

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That left Ryan and me at the campsite. Nadine and Lambo went to explore around the site and found a small river just behind the bushes we parked. Then next thing I know, Branden and the Mikes came back. I was thinking the campsite wasn’t that good? But I was hyped, and I figured why not and check out the campsite that Branden found.

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Sooo we did a vote on which campsite to stay in. Branden’s campsite that has more trees for shade but a tight space, or the first campsite that was spacious but no trees for shade.

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The majority vote was Branden’s campsite. We all went up there and I was kind of excited to see the new site since we can get some shade and protection from the cold winds. Well, turns out it was just a bit too small for all of our rigs to fit. Sooo back to the orignal campsite.

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By this time, we all just wanted to set up camp, but then Ryan noticed a sign. No motorized vehicles, We were in the zone where vehicles are not allowed. I get it, because with any parks you want to protect the wildlife and vegetation. Obeying the signs and not trespassing is what will keep parks open.

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1hr has passed since we arrived in the area, and no official camp yet. Then Mike saw another site that wasn’t too far, and turned out to be perfect. It had enough space for our rigs, and a fire pit with firewood left behind from previous campers.

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The view looks into the mountain valley. I can imagine already how the sunrise and sunset is gonna be. We set up camp, and had some time to explore the campsite.

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Branden expoled trials with his hardtail Santa Cruz mountain bike. Cathy, Nadine, Mike with the Tacoma, and the kiddos found a nice river stream not to far where we can refill the water jugs for cleaning and showering. Mike with the Tacoma noticed a road that lead up to the river and was not occupied.

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I chilled by the fire pit and when Branden came back I rode his mountain bike around the dirt roads. Branden, Mike, Cathy, Nadine and the dogs went to hike up a trailhead, because there was a waterfall at the end of the trail.

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Meanwhile, Ryan and his parents where prepping to make chicken adobo for dinner. I haven’t had that dish in a long time, and glad I was able to have it again. Better yet, in the mountain out camping. Its a one pot dish but you have to prep the food, and let it simmer for hours. I was thankful Ryan and his parents made that dish for everyone.

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While I was biking, I was really impressed the way the Santa Cruz absorbed the bumps and rocks while bombing down hills. Then the gearing to climb made it easy. But the the thin mountain air got me struggling. I did find the trail that Mike found next to stream and it was a gem. The trail that takes you there looked like a dead end unless you ventured a couple feet more past the stream crossing. The area was secluded with better views. When I got back into camp I told the boys about it and we all concluded to set up camp there tomorrow.

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With everyone back at the campsite, the chicken adobo meal was just about ready to be served. We also had rice, cooked the old fashon way, hard boil eggs, and pickled veggies on the side. We where eating good.

With everyone pretty full. We all talked about the plan for tomorrow since up to this point we kind had a plan and now its just go with the flow. Mike with the GX had to leave in couple of days because the kids had school. We decided to head to one of the famous trails tomorrow and then had back to new secret campsite we found.

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We met another camper that just need to use a bottle open for a drink. Branden was pretty impressed in the dedication, because most people would have just gotten another drink.

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Later in the night, Ryan was out taking some pretty cool night shots. While the rest went to bed, or stayed around the campfire till there was no more wood left to burn.

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That night was coldest night from the trip. I think because we camped in the middle of the mountain valley, and funneled in the cold air. Nadine, and I felt the cold even even with the sleeping bag and fleece blanket. Lambo later that night was also cold, and I tucked him next to me for extra warmth.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Colorado Expedition: All Part of the Adventure

Day 3 we woke up to a clear beautiful morning. The Rooftest with couple blankets kept Nadine and I warm. Lambo didn’t mind the blanket, but then I woke up with Lambo by our feet.

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Breakfast consisted of Branden’s aeropress coffee, and hotpot leftovers. By 8am it was feeling the warm sun rays, which meant it was time to pack up. Till, the GX battery died.

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Mike left his refrigerator on overnight, and drained the battery. Thankfully my rig had the recovery gear and tool box. We used my jumper cables, and jumped the GX with my other friends Tacoma, who’s name is also Mike haha.

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After 5mins charging, the GX cranked, but wasn’t starting. We didn’t hear the fuel pump priming. Mike with the GX apologized to the whole group but it was fine. We all had car troubles in the past and know what its like to be in that situation. We are just glad that the GX broke down with everybody here has the tools and knowledge to work on cars.

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The campsite was roughly 40miles away from Durango, CO. Lucky, camp was higher in the mountains, and had reception. Just one bar and thats better then nothing. The ladies helped out by calling various auto part stores in Durango. The guys proceeded to work on the fuel pump. To removed the fuel pump, you have access it though the back seat and disconnect the connections. Then you have drop the fuel tank to removed the pump. Mike with the GX wasn’t going to drop the fuel tank. Instead he used my wire cutters and made a big enough hole to access the fuel pump the from the top. What a G, and I think all of us would have done the same given the situation.

With the fuel pump out, we want to make sure 100% it was the pump and not the wiring. Branden all brought his tool box which had spare wires. We wired up the fuel pump to Mike, with the Tacoma’s, battery. Sure enough, the pump did turn on and fuel wasn’t spraying. Thankfully around that time, the ladies was able to get a fuel pump. The thing was it wont be available till tomorrow morning.

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With that news, we decided to stay anther night at camp. It was 11am, and we want to make the most of the day. We couldn’t get the GX running till tomorrow. Mike’s with the GX decided to replace his brake pads since it was on the low side. Cathy found a dirt road named Lime Creek Road (another famous road name in Austin,Tx) that lead to a hiking trailhead.

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Mike’s family stayed behind while the rest went back on the road to do some off-roading and hiking. The route took us though Durango, CO and was nice small modern town. Ryan and his parents decided to stay in Durango and explore the city. The rest us continued to drive though the Million Dollar Highway and lead us to Lime Creek Road. The sign says 4×4 high clearance recommend. Whenever you see that, they mean it. The road started off easy, but the higher we climb, the more rough and rocky it got.

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We drove about 1hr into the trail till we arrived at the trailhead. Then Mike, crawling slow, told us he didn’t have brakes. Sure enough, we noticed the driver front rim was wet and brake fluid spewing from the line. This just happened right when we arrived at the trailhead. I’m guessing a rock damaged the line.

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One of the scariest feeling is stepping on the brakes the vehicle doesn’t stop. I didn’t have my tools because I left it camp for other Mike to use. Luckily Branden brought his. Mike and Adelyn couldn’t do the trailhead hike with the brake issue. It was about 2pm, and we still had time to hike. Mike and Adelyn decided it would be best to drive back down in to the Lime Creek entrance and park there. At least Mike can call around and find the brake line for the Tacoma while we hiked.

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You might be asking how can you go down a hill with no brakes. I’ve been in a situation where I lost brakes and couldn’t stop. There is a way, and I’ve used this method too. You put your rig in 4 low and stay in 1st gear. This changes the gear ratio to a crawling speed, 5mph and below. You can only do this if you have 4 wheel drive with low range.

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With Mike and Adelyn heading back to the entrance, the rest of us went to hike 3 miles into this beautiful lake. I was worried Lambo might struggle. Surprisingly Lambo loved it, and mountain lake at the end of the trail. I later found out it was Potato Lake Trail.

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The scenery was soo nice, and you notice the temperature drop by the lake. This was melted snow water from the winter months. Lambo went for a quick dip in the cold water. He loved being up in the mountains. We took a little snack break and then headed back to the trailhead.

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It started to rain on the hike back momentarily, and sun poked though. By the time we got to the trailhead it was 5pm. We drove back down, and Branden had enough cell reception to receive a call from Mike. He was able to buy a brake line, but the issue was by the time was arrive at the trail entrance the dealership would be closed.

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Sometimes things happen for a reason. Right after that call, Branden saw on the group chat Ryan was still in Durango, CO and was going to head back to base camp. Branden called Ryan, and was able to pick up the brake line with some other supplies. This saved us couple hours. Ryan was a lifesaver.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and waited for Ryan. We got to work by prepping up the Tacoma for the brake line change. I conveniently brought my cooler and had some cold brews while waiting. Shortly after, Ryan came and we where able to get the Tacoma brakes working in no time.

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By the time this was all done it was 7:30pm and sun was starting to set. Mike with the GX radioed to us he was making some noodle stir fry and will be ready when we get back.

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When arrived at the trail it was already dark. Night trail runs are fun and completely different experience. Ryan’s yelled LED fog light pierced though the dusty road.

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We arrived back at camp with food all ready. I quickly set up our Roofnest tent which was getting easier to set up. I could probably do it in less then 5mins now. We had dinner and talked about our adventure in the campfire till we had no more firewood.

Today was an adventure and this is also why we planed the trip loosely. Because sometimes things doesn’t go according to plan. You adjust to the situation. We missed out on another camping site, but just to have good friends around, even when problems arise is something I’ll always be thankful for. Stay tuned for day 4.

NOLA Gridlife 2020

With my 86 running good for almost one year, Im really happy the way the car turned out. It was rough 1.5yrs build it, but at least all the major issues are fixed, and minor ones are easy fixes that didn’t hinder my seat time.

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In one of the group chats I was in, one the guys was selling their NOLA Gridlife driver ticket. Since it was discounted, I said “fuck it” and bought the driver ticket. I guess I have to track prep the 86. The last event was about 3 weeks ago at the Knuckle Up drift event.

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The car ran great, no issues. I just had to flush my brakes and change the oil. Turns out when I was about to flush my brake fluid, I noticed the rear caliper seal was starting to leak.

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Typical me, I didn’t inspect the the car till a week before the Gridlife NOLA. That life, sometimes stuff happens unexpectedly, this probably explains why my brakes felt spongy at Knuckle Up. Unfortunately, the Toyota dealerships didn’t have a seal kit in stock and was a 3 week delivery time. Luckly Rockauto had the aftermarket brands in stock, but I paid extra for 2 day shipping.

Then about 2hrs after buying from Rockauto, Danh messaged me he had an OEM one in stock. Thankfully he was willing to sell it to me, and I was able to replace the old seals in the rear caliper. This video helped me out:

The processes wasnt too hard and took me about 3hrs to do the replace both seals. You do need a special service tool to replace a O ring, but I skipped that step becuase on the 4age forums, people said its hard to put back in without the SST. Unfortunately, the SST is not made anymore and kinda expensive if you do find it. Not really with it for a tool I might use once. Thankfully no leaks.

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With new rear brake seals, the front passenger had brake pad issues. It wore unevenly, I think it was from the leaking seal, and sticking caliper pin. Always grease the pins. Thankfully Harris was able to overnight me Hawk HP pads and Battle Garage was able to 2 day ship Porterfield RS-4 pads. I ended up using the Hawk HP because it more track oriented.

So with the 86 all ready, I was able to make it to Gridlife by Friday night. I paid for the 2 day event, and planned to camp, at the track, till Monday morning.

This was my first time attending Gridlife, but with the covid pandemic happening, the music festival was gone. From what I was told, the prior Gridlife events felt like Forza Horizon. Car and music festival all in one. A more lively atmosphere then just a track day.

Regardless, I still had fun and met old and new friends. The cars out at Gridlife was top notch, show car worthy. I like it when cars that look clean are actually driven for the intended purpose and not hard parked. I like the car shows, but it just cooler when they get driven. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to attend more Gridlife events.

Colorado Expedition: Into the Mountains

Day 2 was another longish drive, about 8 hrs to camp. I was looking forward to cooler weather. We all were looking forward to Colorado. Branden and Cathy made the group breakfast before heading out.

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On the road with Mike’s GX failing fuel pump going out, he called part shops along the way to find a fuel pump. Surprisingly no one had one in stock including the dealers. Some part stores could get it next day, but we couldn’t wait another day.

We took the risk and just hope it wont go out again for the trip. Worst case is just leave the GX at a repair shop, then Mike and his family could tag along in a 4×4 rental while in Colorado. We have 9 days planned, and that is enough time to have the GX fixed. If it ever came to that.

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For lunch, we had leftovers from breakfast and just ate while driving. We wanted to make to camp before it got dark. We had multiple fuel stops thanks to my Land Cruiser averaging 12-10mpg.

The drive had a change of scenery the higher we climbed. Then descent back into valley, and repeat. I had to pop my ears a few times. Lambo didn’t mind the ride, mostly slept the whole time.

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We cross through New Mexico and into Colorado. The sign we arrived at was a small sign. We all pulled over to take a picture. All for the experience and memories.

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We arrived at San Juan National Forest on a Thursday. I didn’t expected our area to be packed, but it was! The marked sites I pinned were all taken. But the trail continued for miles and that meant we have a chance of finding a site.

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With 5 rigs deep, it was hard find a space that could fit everyone, and the deeper we got into the trail the tougher it was. But nothing the Toyotas couldn’t handle. I found a site that was perfect for us. Branden went to scout around for maybe a better site, but we all decided this spot was the best one.

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The planned campsite is 6000ft elevation, but the one we found was 9000ft elevation. I figured 6000ft would be a nice introduction to the thin mountain air, but given the situation we felt the altitude change. Thankfully no one got altitude sickness on our first day camping in the mountains.

That day was my birthday and what a better way to enjoy it with some your friends. We did hot pot, because noodles is must for any birthday and hot broth is perfect for the cold nights.

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Stay tuned for Day 3.