A Day Trip To Carmel-By-The-Sea

Every time that I make a trip to Fresno lately to visit with my two sons and my two grandkids, while staying with my eldest son Jason, we (Jason and I) strike off on one of his famous or infamous day trips!  This visit to Fresno was no exception to what has now become the rule.

Last Saturday we rose up early and got things together, packed up what we thought was necessary for our 2 1/2 hour drive over to Carmel-By-The-Sea for an afternoon of sightseeing.  This particular trip, Jason explained to me, would be specifically pointed towards visiting many of the art galleries that are there.

Now it is at this point that I must do some “splainin”!

First and foremost, for those that know me well know that there is not one single artistic bone located anywhere in, on, nor around the physical composition that makes up my being!  I may appreciate some art, but I am not anywhere close to being an art critique nor, an art connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination!

I may have the art or gift of gab, or as one of my dearly departed college friends, Jerry Noblett, so aptly put it back during one of our shared college classes, and I will paraphrase it for you. When he saw the A that I received for one of our essay tests in Business Law and his B, his response was something that I have never forgotten.

Jerry’s explanation was something like “Leon you are so full of BS that you just BS’ed your way into that A!  I can’t believe that we said the same thing in our essay answers, but you really greased him up with your BS!” Eureka, I think that we have a winner!

I have digressed, but I think that you get my point about my art knowledge!

Anyway, we arrived at Carmel around 10:30 am on Saturday.  By the time we found a place to park his car it was about 11 am.

As we began our stroll around Carmel-By-The-Sea our first stop was to try to find a place to eat, since breakfast was wearing very thin with both of us.  After all, it was going take a lot of calorie intact to fuel our walk around Carmel!  After a few Google searches and reading of a few menus, Jason mentioned that he knew a good little Italian restaurant, Pepe’s Little Napoli Bistro Italiano on the corner of Delores and 7th.  So we headed over to check it out and decided this was the place for lunch.

Lunch was outstanding and very affordable for Carmel!  We each ordered up differing pizzas with an appetizer of their “World Famous” garlic bread. It all was very tasty, and I would suggest this place if you are ever in town.

When lunch  was finished we sat out on our mission of visiting as many art galleries as we could Saturday.  There was a lot of people out and about walking up and down the sidewalks of Carmel.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect afternoon, clear, sunny, and temps in the mid 60’s, HELLO!

So my tour guide, read Jason The Latent Tie Dye Hippie and All Around Edgy Dude, takes out his phone and directs us to our first art gallery.  As we walked in and began to look around at the collection hanging on the walls of the gallery the owner/manager/curator greeted us and welcomed us into the establishment.  Within the first few sentences the question was asked, “are you an artist?”  Now this person surely must have been kidding when she asked that question!

When looking at this duo one could see an elderly gentleman, a child of the 60’s, yours truly, dressed in a pair of cargo pants, long sleeved Daytona Speedway T-Shirt and a jacket from Gold Beach, Oregon.  I must say that I was looking very nondescript, but very cool I might add, that day. I kind of blended into the nondescript, but cool, crowd!  However, standing next to me was a much younger, bearded 40-something man, who had just swapped out his Birkenstocks for a pair of hiking boots before we left his car, wearing a pair of cargo pants and a self designed and styled Tie Dye hoodie sweatshirt.

Isn’t it quite obvious who may be the artistic person and who isn’t?

So when that question was asked I would just stick my finger out and point to the bearded 40-something person with the Tie Dye hoodie accompanying me and let them know that it wasn’t me that was an artist! But to a tee, everyone of the people that we talked to in these art galleries was very friendly, courteous, and very engaging.  Many of the galleries were very interesting and entertaining for this old non-artist dude.  But there were about four or five galleries out of the thirteen that we visited Saturday that really captured my attention.

The Dr. Sues art gallery was really cool!  Charles Schultz granted a license to a gentleman that had worked with him over the years to continue with Schultz’ work.  The only stipulation was that this gentleman could not duplicate his work.  He could use all of the characters but had to use the characters differently than Shultz had done.  That gallery was cool and really brought me back to some of my youth with The Cat In The Hat, Linus, Lucy, Charley Brown and many, many more Shultz characters! Again, the gallery owner gave us a little history lesson on this gallery, the works that were being shown and he was very friendly, as well.

We entered another gallery that was full of paintings that were focused on the pop culture of the last 50 years.  There were many great paintings that took me back in time in this gallery.  However, there was one painting that struck me in a most unusual way.  It was kind of freaky!

As I turned the corner and entered another room in the gallery I was struck by this piece that was full of images of The Beatles.  Some likenesses from the Magical Mystery Tour album, some from the Abbey Road album and some from Sgt. Peppers.  As I gazed upon this painting, all of the sudden inside my head there was the music of George Harrison playing.  The song playing was “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”!  It was just freaky crazy, my friend!

Down the street and around the corner there were two galleries that were full of bronze sculptures.  The first gallery, The Bennet Gallery, was all the works of the twin Bennet brothers and some of their children’s work.  It was very fascinating to look at all the various pieces on display.  Again, talking to the curator/manager/owner of this gallery, and answering the repeated question as to which one of us was an artist, led to a very pleasant surprise! After talking to this lady for quite sometime, she revealed that one of the twin brothers was her late husband and that her daughter was also one of the producers of these bronze images!

Later in the afternoon we entered another gallery featuring more bronze sculptures.  The lady in charge took us around and explained many of the show pieces on display.  She fired up a video showing the artist at work with his models, etc.  She seemed very knowledgable.  And  after answering “the question of the day” once again, she and Jason connected, as he did with every single person that we talked with on Saturday.  So as the conversation led itself to the question, Jason asked her how she knew so much about the artist and his works.  She confessed that the reason that she knew so much about the artist was that it was her father!


We actually visited 13 of the 70-plus art galleries in Carmel on Saturday.

As the sun was getting low on the horizon, our feet and legs were getting tired, this 66 year old body was starting to feel fatigued, as we were walking back to the car I peered though the glass at one last shop.  It sparked my interest and in turn I got Jason’s attention.  I said to him let’s go into just one more.  He looked at me sort of incredulously, like he couldn’t believe that I was really interested in going into another art gallery!  I repeated what I said and he concurred.

Once inside he figured out my interest.  I was busted!  It was a gallery of race cars and airplanes!  I was in my element, race cars and airplanes.  I really thought that I had died and gone to Heaven!

The quality of the paintings were unbelievable.  The attention to detail was second to none.  It was so meticulous that it appeared photographic like in detail!  I learned that this artist was an engineer by trade.  He had worked in the auto industry designing automotive stuff.  His education, training, and background definitely came through in his attention to automotive detail, as well as aviation detail!

There was a painting of Michael Schumaker in his Ferrari, Mario Andretti in Formula 5000 car, Jim Clark in the Lotus that he brought to the Indy 500 in 1963, Ayrton Senna in his McLaren, a two ship of F-14 Tomcats orbiting over the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor with the point of view from a third aircraft in the formation, as well as many more fantastic paintings too many to mention!

Once again the gallery person was eager to engage both of us in conversation.  She was eager to explain the art work, give us background about the artist and answer our questions.  Once I got my fill of this gallery it was time to find Jay’s car and head over to the beach for a few minutes before we pack up and return to the valley.

The navigator, aka My Latent Tie Dye Hippie and All Around Edgy Dude, got us over to the beach just south of Pebble Beach Gold Club to check out the Pacific Ocean, the dropping sun, and the sandy beach.  It was a beautiful ending to a really fun day in this magical Central California Coast town!

Now for the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Fresno.  Jason and I talked about many things and that made the time go by very fast.

However, once we got back to his apartment and I began to unwind, I knew it was time for this old man to hit the rack.  As I slipped into bed and was laying there waiting to fall asleep, there were many thoughts that ran through my brain.

I thought about some of the things that I did with my dad in his later years.  I thought about bringing my parents to NYC for their first time and giving them “the grand tour of NYC”, which included taking them to Broadway for a show.  I thought about the only time that my dad ever went flying with me.  There were many more thoughts and memories of my dad that flashed through my brain before I fell asleep.

Those memories are priceless and aren’t for sale!

I wonder someday, when Jason reaches my age, if he will look back on our “day trip to Carmel”, or our other day trips, or maybe his trip out to Honolulu with me flying the B-767 with the same fond memories?  I surely hope so.


I Missed The Dirt Setup!

me sitting on pit wall @ IMS

(sitting on the pit wall @IMS)

For the past six months I have been working on getting off the excess weight that I have accumulated in the last several years.  In addition to changing my eating habits, I have been walking.

Where I was walking this winter is within the confines of the facility where I winter.  It is much safer, no cars trying to run over you, no traffic, no distractions, etc., however it is pavement, like a road racing course.  For the month of June I was visiting my kids and grandkids in Fresno, and walking on a one mile horse race track.

One would not think there is no difference walking on asphalt, versus walking on dirt.  I, too, was one of those that thought that there was little to no differences in the surfaces. However, after a few days of walking on the dirt track I found that I was having handling problems!

On the pavement, where I was walking this winter, it was a relatively flat surface, requiring both left and right turns.  I had no built in camber, or bump stops in my suspension setup. Just an old pair of Nike cross trainers on my feet!  However here on the horse racing track, it is dirt, slightly banked, and just left turns, kinda like oval racing in NASCAR. Quickly I realized that there was a big difference on how this old man performed on the dirt!

Anyway, for the first week of walking on this dirt track, I found that as I would get to the end of either straight-away, and try to set up for the turns, I was unable to hold the low line through the turns.  As soon as I would “gas it up”, I would push up towards the fence!  I just could not figure it out! Why was I unable to hold the low line, and pushing so much through the turns?

I tried “getting out of the gas” early, rolling through the center, then “gassing it up” again as I progressed through two-thirds of the turn.  That didn’t fix the problem.  I still was “pushing” through the turns!  I tried different tennis shoes, thinking that a change in the “footprint” would be the key.  No help whatsoever!  I was was absolutely puzzled!  What can I do?

After a long self evaluation, I decided to confer with one of my good friends, David Prickett, the 2013 USAC Western States Dirt Track midget champion.  If anyone could help me with my dirt set up, it would be David!  So I loaded up in my car, drove over to his race shop, with the idea of picking his brain.

Once I got over to his shop, I began to query him on how to get through the turns on my walk.  I asked David what are the main principles, tires, suspension, etc., of how he gets his midget to handle in the turns.  I was thinking that all those principles would apply to me and my walk on the dirt horse track!  David relayed to me that the right rear tire was for sliding through the turns, while the left rear powered the car through the turn!

Why did I think of that!  That concept seemed all too simple.  I thought a bit, hmmm, surely this will work for me as well.

Now all I have to do is to adjust my body posture, and body weight, to all a little softer right leg as I go into the turn, allowing for a little slide.  All the while, concentrating on getting the left leg to power me through the turns, and up off of the turns, onto the straight-away! What a concept!

On my walk the following morning, I was very diligent with the knowledge that I had received from David.  On lap one, at the end of the straight-away, I allowed my right side to roll over just a little as I got into the turn.  I found that I was able to hold the lower line.  As I “got back into the gas”, I found that my left leg was, indeed, able to power me through the turn without pushing up to the fence!

Eureka!  Problem solved!

Needless to say that my lap times came down, and my speed went up!

So the next time you see someone walking on a dirt surface, if you notice a cloud of dust, and a person walking by in a blur, it just might be me!


Waitin’ On A Woman!


50th anniversary

(WOMR file photo)


Today is  your 100th birthday!

For the last 16 years, July 21st has had a bittersweet meaning to me.  I celebrate your birthday with pride and joy.  All the while, still feeling that hole in my heart, and the loss that I have felt since December 30, 1995.  Additionally, knowing just how much that I have missed your presence in my life for all these years, leaves me somewhat sad.

Pop, you were always a role model for me while you were walking among us.  In death that did not change, in fact, you are more of a role model to me now.  When confronted with a difficult situation, I find myself saying or thinking, “how would Dad handle this situation”?

Little did you know that your influence on your family did not end when God called you home.  Little did you know that your legacy did not stop or vanish   with death.  Quite conversely, it has grown over the last 16 years.  Your legacy has grown via the stories that I have told, both Jason and Jeremy, as well as Cole.  Your presence is still felt long after you are gone!

Just as a side note, you would be very pleased to watch your youngest great-grandson, my grandson Cole, plays the game that you loved so much……… baseball.  I will admit that I am somewhat prejudiced, but Cole has the potential to be a very good baseball player!  I know that would make you very proud!  He is, after all, a Hammack through and through!  And did I mention that I have a very pretty young granddaughter, Hannah?  Pop, she would melt your heart!!!

A Heart wrenching 30 days

Now, as you are well aware, the last 30 days have been heart wrenching for all of us.  We were very selfish, and not yet ready to let Mom answer God’s call to come home.  However, God once again won out, as he always does.  Notwithstanding the fact that Mom outlived you by 16 1/2 years, her body grew very weary and tired.  Now she is finally in Heaven with you, Donald, and the rest of the family.  Reconciling that idea still does not make the loss any easier for me, however, I have to try to understand that death is part of life.

With you and Mom now together in Heaven, the torch has been passed to your children to take up the lead, and be patriarchs of this segment of the Hammack clan.  It is an awesome responsibility that we must, and will, carry out.

One more note:

I can only think about the day that Mom entered Heaven on June 30, 2012. Knowing my Dad, he was sitting up there on a bench waiting for my Mom. I think that the very first thing that Dad said to Mom was, “what took you so long to get here. Olie”?  Well now Pop, she is there!

Dad, this is YOUR Captain speaking:

Til we meet again, I love you and miss you more than you will ever know! Thank you for being the father that you were.  I couldn’t have asked for a better role model!


I thought that this Brad Paisley video was very appropriate!

My Daytona 500 Moments


Trevor Bayne

(Trevor Bayne,WOMR file photo)

For those of us who follow racing, whether you’re a hard-core addict or a casual race fan, we know that winning the Daytona 500 is a true life changing event.  If you are not totally convinced just ask young Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion, just how much his life changed following his “dark-horse, come from nowhere” upset victory!

If Bayne never has any more success in his fledgling young racing career, he will always be remembered as the extremely young, 20-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, break-through driver, and 2011 Daytona 500 winner.  He was piloting the legendary Wood Brothers #21 Ford Fusion with a throw-back, David Pearson paint scheme.

It is exactly that kind of life-changing event that I am talking about, when I mention a “Daytona 500” type of life changing moment!  This “Daytona 500 moment” is THE single most life changing event in your life, the pivotal point in your life from where things in your life changed dramatically.

A “Daytona 500 moment” might consist of you getting married, or divorced.  Either of which can and will drastically create change in you life!  Becoming a parent is also very life changing, and has two phases.  The immediate short-term version of no sleep, is life altering.  Realizing that your children, like it or not, will “be on the payroll forever”!

As you age, the addition to the family with grandchildren is unquestionably is a “Daytona 500 moment”!  Oh the pleasures of being around your grandchildren is so much better than being a parent!  You get to spoil them and not worry about all the other “parental” responsibilities!

Along the road of life there are some other, not so pleasant, experiences that will impact your life.

In addition to the pleasant life altering events that almost all of us get the chance to experience, marriage (some of us have experienced that event on more than one occasion!), parenthood, being a grand-parent, etc., we, unfortunately, also must confront the less desirable parts of life.  Quite frankly, the joyful and pleasant experiences are not the ones that truly are the defining cornerstones in one’s life.

However, it is those less desirable parts of life that usually mold our character.  Those gut-wrenching experiences that test our faith, our courage, and our moral fiber, are the experiences that define who we are as a person.

I could list all the great experiences that I was fortunate enough to be a part of for the last 61 years.  Most of those things, being an Air Force pilot, being an airline pilot, and a few other cool experiences did have a lasting effect on my life.  However, those experiences do not, and did not, define who I am as a person. Being a pilot described what I did for a living, not who I was as a person.

It is our parents, and those “formative” years, that is the basis of our moral character.  With that being said, what really defines the person is the “life journey” that we all must take, and how we cope with those “Daytona 500 moments” that come and visit us.  It is life’s tragedies, how they affect us, and how we deal and cope with them, that really mold, and define our character.

After giving much thought on this theme, I have concluded that there are four such “Daytona 500 moments” that I have experienced so far in my life.

The first life changing event happened during the month of April, back in 1975.  You all might remember a military exercise known as “The Saigon Evacuation”.  This was a massive airlift operation that President Ford ordered after one of our C-5’s crashed bringing out Vietnamese orphans.  As a very young 24-year-old USAF 2Lt., this two-week ordeal was a very hair-raising, and dangerous military operation.  (Getting shot at by Viet Cong 37mm anti-aircraft artillery was not my idea of a leisurely day in the office!)

Another “Daytona 500 moment” happened back in July of 2005.  On this particular hot Fresno afternoon, my son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Stephanie, had to deal with their set of twins coming into this world extremely premature, and totally unprepared for survival in this world.  It was the second time in less than ten years that I was forced to deal with an untimely death of a family member, and once again deal with my own mortality.  Even though these two little girls didn’t survive 24 hours, their presence left a very profound effect on many people’s life, particularly their grandfather.

Still another of my “Daytona 500 moments” occurred on May 16, 2010, at 36,000 feet.  I had just taken off from JFK airport in New York and was on my way back to LAX.  Suddenly my cockpit had erupted into flames!  For those of you have not read my description of that eventful evening, click on the link that will describe this life and health changing event, “An Enlightening Experience”!

When death stares you directly in the face, and you realize that your fate is in your own hands, and that quite possibly this latest turn of events may cost you your life, there is no doubt that the way that you look at life, and for that matter, the way you view life in general, will change forever!  That qualifies as a “Daytona 500 moment”!

Having written about the three previous pivotal moments in my life, this next turning point is without a question the biggest, and the singularly most important “Daytona 500 moment” in my life.  This occurred around 10:15 pm on December 30, 1995.  That was the exact moment when my whole life would change forever.  That was the time and the day that my father left this Earth.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I began to realize all the lessons that I had learned from a man who “only had a sixth grade education”! I came to realize that he was “wiser” than just a sixth grade education.  He was a very street wise farm-boy, and much wiser than, as a teenager, I ever gave him credit to be.

From that point, December 30, 1995, I would find myself, when confronted by a tough decision, saying “what would Dad do”?  From that point I began to realize that even in death my Dad was a role model for me.  It was from that point that I realized that, whether I liked it or not, I am a role model to either my two sons, or much later, to my grandchildren.

Life would never be the same for me after December 30, 1995!  That is and was my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”!

What is/are your “Daytona 500 moment/s”?


This song was written by Blake Shelton.  It reflects losing his brother as a teenager, and song by his wife, Miranda Lambert.  Listen to the lyrics of this song.  It mirrors how I feel regarding my biggest “Daytona 500 moment”.

Oregon Wine Tasting


(Nehalem Bay Winery)


Today we made a pit stop at a local Nehalem Bay winery, namely the Nehalem Bay Winery.


I was impressed with their red wines. The Merlot was uncharacteristically smooth. There was no biting after taste associated with the Merlot.


Both the Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon were equally full flavored and smooth, as well!


Although this is not the Napa, Sonoma, or Mendicino Valley, the Nehalem Wimery wines are very flavorful and full bodied!


Til next time, ROGER, WILCO, OVER, and OUT!


Sent from Leon Hammack’s smoking’ iPhone!

Posted via email from captainblowdri’s posterous

Flat Track Motorcycle Races


Well it has been about 33 years since I have been to some AMA flat track motorcycle races, and tonight I am at the Petaluma Speedway taking in some bike races!

It is really cool to watch the riders lay their bikes, and let the foot pegs drag. The boys were handle bar to handle bar and really “twisting the wick”!

So far this summer vacation has been extremely fun, as well as relaxing.

For now it’s Roger, Wilco, Over, and Out!

Sent from Leon Hammack’s smoking’ iPhone!

Posted via email from captainblowdri’s posterous


Wine Tasting In The Russian River Valley


(all that’s missing is you!)

We stopped at the Russian River Winery Friday. We tried some of their wines, both white and red. What I found to be intriguing was that their Red Zinfandel was quite intriguing!

This area is known for it’s pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, however, this particular winery produces a very flavorful Red Zinfandel.

It is a 2009 vintage sold under the label of “Chester” Zinfandel:
Redwood Valley with a price tag of $23. This product is named after the “winery pooch”. The label has his picture, Chester, on it!!

More to come about the Russian River Valley and the associated wineries in the area!

Sent from Leon Hammack’s smoking’ iPhone!

Posted via email from captainblowdri’s posterous


Viva Las Vegas Weekend!


(Captain Blowdri and Clint Bowyer’s race car @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway)

Last weekend was my annual trek to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race weekend.  In addition to the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races at this facility, there were two nights of lightening fast World of Outlaws Sprint Car races on the 1/2 mile clay track, located behind turn four and to the west of the NHRA drag strip on this world class racing complex, consisting of 1200 acres.

I have only missed one race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway since NASCAR started racing there in 1998.    This year the weather cooperated and was quite nice, in the mid 70’s during the daytime.  In the past, the weather was always of come concern.  The heat has been as high as in the mid 80’s one year, however in 2006, it snowed on us Friday night in our RV’s!  The weather in Las Vegas in the last of February/first of March is a crap shoot!

This year I purchased two weekend passes to the Neon Garage.  What a great idea!  The Neon Garage passes let you out into the infield.  That pass gives you access to pit road, the limited garage area, as well to an entertainment area that is really cool!

One of the many cool things about going to the NASCAR races in Vegas is the fact that the race track lies just across the street and a little NW of Nellis AFB.  During this time of the year, there is a wide a varied conglomeration of both US Air Force and NATO allies aircraft transiting to and through Nellis AFB.  But the treat of the whole weekend is watching the USAF precision flight team, known more commonly as the USAF Thunderbirds, practice and prepare for their upcoming yearly tour.

It is quite a show for all the race fans to watch on a daily basis!

For both the Nationwide race on Saturday, and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, the dominate race car did not win the race!  Saturday “Blazingly Bad” Brad Keselowski had a sure win until he experienced a right front tire blowing out in the middle of turns 1 and 2 on the very last lap.  Luckily for him, he was able to hustle the car around to squeek in a third place finish.  On Sunday Tony Stewart was the dominating race car for most all of the race, however, some misguided pit strategy extremely late in the race relegated him to a second place finish!

There is just something magical about this place!

Check out this video! Viva Las Vegas!


Brad Paisley Rocks Daytona

Brad Paisley just finished his four song set at Daytona International Speedway. His song set consisted of “This is Country Music”, “Mud On The
Tires”,”American Saturday Night”, & “Water”.

Mr. Paisley really rocked the Daytona International Speedway crowd this afternoon!!

Note to me: Got to go see his show!

From high up in the Sprint Cup Tower:

Roger,Wilco, Over, and Out!

Sent from Leon Hammack’s smoking’ iPhone!

Posted via email from captainblowdri’s posterous

Daytona 500 Pre Race Festivities

Good morning race fans!

As you can see, the race track is getting all the final equipment in place for the Brad Paisley pre race concert, as well as the driver intros.

For those who have never made the pilgrimage to Daytona, the atmosphere is electric, the fans are energized, and excitement is in the air! Today’s race promises to deliver intensity and excitement for the fans.

The underlying story line is the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt,Sr’s death. As we all remember, it was in the last turn of the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 that the tragedy occurred, forever impacting motor sports.

Can Michael Waltrip visit victory lane as he did for his very first time on the bone chilling Sunday afternoon? Can Dale Earnhardt,Jr. win his second Harley J. Earl trophy, a fitting tribute to his father, The Intimidator!

Those questions and many more will be answered in about 6 hours. So tune into “The Great American Race” to see what unfolds!

Til next time, I am still working on my REDNECK!

This message is sent to via Leon Hammack’s smokin iPhone!

Posted via email from captainblowdri’s posterous