panda

Must-See Macau

Macau is a 1.5 hour ferry ride from the terminal in Hong Kong, and it’s worth a day trip.  Everyone knows about the lavish casinos and the huge party town (it’s like the Vegas of Southeast Asia), but here are three must-sees – aside from the glitz and glamour – that will make your Macau visit even more fun.

Old Town Macau

Check out the fortresses from when Macau was a Portuguese colony.  See the architecture, take in the decidedly European influence (there’s even a Port wine museum!), try to figure out street signs in Portuguese…

One stop for spectacular views of the city is the old fort, Fortaleza du Monte.  It has panoramic views and really shows you the dichotomy between Old and New Macau.

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The cannon is pointed directly at the casinos….hm….

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The Ruins of St. Paul are right next to the fort, and are gorgeous.

You can also see the Chinese influence that still hasn’t will probably never go away, in the forms of older temples and shrines, and even more modern propaganda in the form of the 1950s Mao posters in every store.

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Pandas!!!!!!!!!!

Did you really think I’d skip the pandas?  Come on….

There are two pandas in Macau, and they are awesome.  The panda park itself is interesting – it has panda EVERYTHING (so it’s basically my version of heaven), and you can watch them till your heart’s content.

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These were absolutely huge awesome pandas made from carnations.

If you catch them on a good day, they’ll do flips and entertain you, but on a bad day, they’ll just stay in their little cave area and not come out.  Luckily for me, it was a good day, and I got to see it up close and personal.  Now if only I could figure out how to get one home…

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Grand Prix Museum

I realize this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a really short museum and if you like cars or appreciate it at all, it’s worth a trip.  Inside, you will see Aryton Senna’s car and race suit, an entire wall devoted to Michael Schumacher, and various other cars from other forms of racing (Porsche, BMW, even Toyota).  It’s a throwback homage to the days when racing was insanely dangerous, drivers were rugged men, and parties were wild and debauchery ran amok.

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And if the Museo du Gran Prix isn’t your thing, the Port wine museum is right next door. Cheers!

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Eats, Shoots, & Leaves

Image courtesy of deviantart.net

No, it’s not a grammar error. Those commas are intentional – my panda does not eat shoots and leaves (it doesn’t technically eat food, shoot a gun, and walk away either, but that’s a story for another post). Instead, it eats high octane race fuel, shoots fireballs out the exhaust, and is loaded onto a trailer before it departs. My Panda is my race car. One that I successfully piloted to a first place on Day 1 at the 2013 National Championships. I nearly sealed the deal on Day 2, and could have been a National Champion, but a catastrophic suspension failure left me in second place after jumping into a pretty MW M3, loaned by a very generous former national champion in the same class.

For those that don’t know what autocross is, or why I travel to airports in glamorous spots like Lincoln, Nebraska, and Toledo, Ohio, please take 4 minutes of your day and watch the video below. On one hand, yes it’s driving around a bunch of traffic cones, but on the other, it really is as exciting as this video makes it look.

Check out my car at 3:43, and anywhere you see “G-Fab,” that’s my race team 🙂

Following the last few local events, it was decided that this Panda had eaten its last gallon of fuel, and shot its last fireballs. The failures it had encountered over the season included a spun bearing, the subframe ripping out of the trunk, a broken head stud inside the head while trying to fix said spun bearing, the wheel hub shearing off….I know all those things might sound like jibber jabber to you, but to those of you that are familiar with auto mechanics, those aren’t small issues. And really, when all those things happen, you have to fix them, and pay for parts to fix them, and Panda stopped eating race fuel and started eating dollar bills.

Enter the car I purchased two years ago, from a friend: An original 1997 240sx (these are super rare) that had been sideswiped at a toll booth.

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Finally, it was time to say goodbye to Panda – the crazy car that had its own personality and defied all odds. It laughed at you if you tried to drive it poorly, and it pushed you when you drove it well. You could beat it up, or drive it like a girl, but Panda made you feel fast and amazing. And whenever you asked for more, Panda gave it.  I could give Shel Silverstein a run for his money and write a book called The Giving Car, because that’s really what Panda was.

It is to be used as a donor car for yet another 240sx with a crushed strut tower, so part of it will live on. The motor and much of the suspension, the dashboard, and some of the other odds and ends went into this car, so you could say Panda’s heart and soul are in the new car, and the bones are going into another one…….at least that’s what I tell myself to avoid the…..CRACK…..yep….did you hear that? That was my heart breaking, like it does every time I see this photo.

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Ugh.I’m not crying, I’m just cutting onions.

After a long and freezing winter of not working on it, and a few all-nighters of working on it, Newcar finally had its first and second foray into the racing scene – all in the last few weeks. The first time was horrible, and the second time was marginally better, but I think that there are good things to come. I only drove it in the first photo – it was not a great outing – cold, rainy, old tires, no alignment, no tire pressure, no front downforce (note the missing front bumper), terrible for racing. At least the heat worked. I was a Popsicle, and I’m sure Newcar wasn’t that happy either.

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For its second attempt at racing, I wasn’t there, but a friend tried to help it along. While he didn’t do my number or class justice, the car seemed a lot more promising. I still hate the damaged door, and that it’s all white and not mean looking, but at least it managed to get around the course.

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Newcar’s wheels are melting off!

So, there’s no more Panda, no more car that I put my sweat, tears, and blood (ok mostly tears) into. No more legendary little car that shouldn’t have, but DID, and did it well. Most people think we just got a new front end for Panda – they don’t realize it’s a completely different chassis. I find that heartbreaking as well – no one knows Panda like I did, so they don’t know that Newcar just isn’t the same. They all refer to Newcar as “Panda” and I cringe – that’s a name that has to be earned.

At least Newcar still eats high octane fuel, shoots fireballs, and leaves on a trailer.