Tuesday, September 28

Tod and I got up early today and headed over to Van Nuys, where Jolie Mason and set up a meeting with some professional drivers to talk to us about driving with limited peripheral vision. We rolled through this suburban neighborhood looking for Jolie and the people we were supposed to meet. As we turned a corner, we greeted by the revving engine of a NASCAR stock car.

We got out and met Danny, Sarah, and Jim, three very cool people. They showed us around the stock car and told all about it. I didn’t know that the lights on NASCAR vehicles are just stickers, they can’t have glass or plastic because they might shatter and cause damage to other vehicles or drivers themselves. Basically, they have to hollow out a regular car and leave only the engine. There’s not even a glove compartment, where do they keep their registration?!

Jim, the owner of the car, let us get in and see what it felt like to be inside. To be truthful, being inside there was like being in side my eyes; there were lots of dead zones, because of al of the safety precautions the drivers take. Roll bars, window nets, plexi-glass windshield, even the seat itself. It was like a cocoon, your body just conforms to the contours of the seat, and keeps you completely immobile.

Looking through the windshield I wondered how they even see out of them, it was scratched up from general track wear. Jim explained that his crew constantly feeds him information, so his sight is also not the only thing he has to rely on. When he is on the track, he only has one side view and a rear view mirror, so the pit crew and boss keep him informed about the stuff he can’t see.

After getting the run down of what it is like to be in a stock car, Danny and Sarah showed us just how limited the vision of a stock car driver is, with the helmet and all of the protection required to keep them safe, and gave us pointers on how to improve our driving when impaired through constant scanning of your mirrors, and even adding convex mirrors to the mirrors you already have to help give you a wider visual field. But I still think having a pit crew would be super helpful for us, too.

Also, Jim is the son of actor, Bill Smith, most notably known by me as Conan’s father in Conan the Barbarian and one of the Russian generals in the original Red Dawn.

We headed back down to Hollywood to grab lunch with some friends of Tod’s and then we hopped on the road towards Joshua Tree State Park. This was a recent addition to our schedule, because it is so beautiful it just can’t be passed up. We were able to rework the schedule a bit to accommodate the addition.

While we were o the road towards Joshua Tree, we did a call in radio interview with Jolie Mason and KPFK, just to do an update about where we were and what we were doing, and to talk about the mobile giving campaign that Jolie is working on for us. It was a pretty good interview, but it went on a bit longer than Tod and I had expected, we had pulled over at a rest stop to do the interview, so we were a bit behind getting to Joshua Tree. This is where the day gets super fun!

The crew had driven ahead about a hour before us, to get stuff set up at Joshua Tree. So as we neared the park, we were texting and calling back and forth to confirm where to meet, etc. Our last contact with them, they had told us which campground to go to, and that they were going to meet us at the main gate. Then all of a sudden there was no response. We’d call or text and get no reply. So following the GPS, and the address supplied from the National Park Service .gov website, we headed to the what we thought was the main entrance.

As we pulled to the entrance, we searched for the van and didn’t see them parked there, so we continued in to the campground they told us we would be staying at. The sun was setting by the time we entered the park, so it was getting harder for us to see, but still doable. We found the campground area, and went in to find the crew. Jumbo Rock campground is a BIG camping area, and we found out why we had not heard from the guys, there’s no cell service in Joshua Tree State Park. We drove through this fairly large campground looking for the crew, we even got up on one of the big rocks and tried to se the van, but we couldn’t find them. I looked at the map and saw that there was another entrance to the park, so I told Tod we should go there because that would be the next logical place to check.

By the time we made it to the west entrance to the park, it was completely dark. We found some maps of the park at the entrance booth, and I saw a third entrance to the park. I told Tod that I’d bet money that this third entrance was where they had been waiting for us.

Both of us unwilling to go back into the park in the dark, we headed back to Twentynine Palms and got a hotel for the night, figuring to meet back up with the crew once they got back into cell reception.