Arlene Poma

2014 NHRA Sonoma Nationals, Sonoma Raceway

In Places on August 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm

In late July, I stepped outside of our suburban home in Sacramento and got a whiff of the Sand Fire that was already burning in the remote areas of Amador and El Dorado counties.  Fire is very common in the severe drought experienced in California.  And for just a day, me and Mister Jack wanted to forget about our state’s loss and suffering.  The constant sound of sirens and the thought of firefighters rushing to areas in Sacramento County as well as other hot spots in California.  As childhood asthmatics, we needed to get away, so we traded smoke for nitro gas.  We headed to Sonoma County and the Sonoma Raceway for the 2014 NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

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Don’t ask me about dragsters and championship racing because this has only been my second time at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.  For one thing, I don’t like speed.  I drive a 2014 Ford Fiesta without using all its bells and whistles because I like to drive without distractions.  I drive like a little old lady because I only care about getting from here to there.

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Photography by Jack French


So what’s a nice girl like me doing in a place like this?  Let me give you some hints:

1)  Anywhere I go, I love watching people and listening to their conversations.

2)  I baste myself with sunscreen (think Thanksgiving turkey)  and hope the California sun will melt away my batwings and fade my stretch marks.  Dreamer!

3)   I really spend my time on Nitro Alley.  It’s like the California State Fair–only with NHRA vendors, meet-and-greets, food, and shopping.

4)  Although I’ve been to Sonoma Raceway twice in two years, I’ll go for any of their venues during the year.  If you like classy, family-friendly events, this is it.  Count on having a good time.

Who cares about roasting in the sun and watching the expensive and flashy cars go by?  Sure, the sounds are deafening.  In fact, the power of those vehicles racing down the track are enough to send vibrations from the ground to your upper body.  I’m not kidding you.  What a rush!

Mister Jack loves watching fast, shiny metal on the ground as well as in the air, so as he keeps his Nikon glued to his face as he takes his shots and videos. For me, it’s all about exploring behind the Grandstand.  Of course, I’ll bring back food and drinks for Mister Jack.  Since he’s so into the qualifying races, he doesn’t notice that I’m gone a long time with my camera.  Since our last visit, I’ve been drawn to the the activities associated with Nitro Alley.  This place, behind the Grandstand action, is strictly for NHRA fans.

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Explore Nitro Alley.  Lots of work goes into those cars and motorcycles.  You can also eat, drink and shop.

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Make sure to bring a hat, ear protection, sunglasses and sunscreen.  California sunshine can be so brutal during the summer, so drink plenty of water.

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And don’t hoard the complimentary Mello Yello on the way out!

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Interested in attending an event at Sonoma Raceway?  Here’s a couple of links to get you started:




Cheap Thrills at the 2014 California State Fair

In Places on July 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

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The California State Fair is only minutes from our home, so we try not to miss it.  We start by buying a ticket package from our local COSTCO, which covers parking, two admission tickets and a $10 voucher towards food and drink.  By planning in advance, we won’t have to stand in line.  Since our national economy is still unstable, why would we want to waste money by forgetting to use our goodies?  By purchasing this package in advance, we have made a commitment to attend the fair at least once during its annual run.

When it comes to the attending the fair, we don’t decide what to do until we get there.  We’ve been going to the California State Fair for years.  In fact, in the 60s, I went to the fair when its location was on Broadway.  I know.  I’m dating myself, but why should I care?  I don’t have any problems when it comes to aging gracefully.

Usually, Mister Jack goes to the California Lottery exhibit for the Scratchers.  Mister Jack is not a hardcore gambler, so I patiently wait while he stands in line to buy the tickets, scratch off the tickets to reveal the numbers and cash in his winning tickets.  This exhibit always has a crowd because if you buy enough tickets, you get to spin the wheel to “win” more Scratchers.  Am I confusing you?  Good!  So I pick a place to sit, zone out, watch people for entertainment, and work on my tan while he goes through this California Lottery ritual.  When the money is tight, the lines for the lottery tickets and the Scratchers are very long.  This year, I got smart and brought sunscreen and bottled water.  Luckily, we didn’t attend the fair during the fire or the time it hit the triple digits.  The show must go on, but not for us.  We would have been miserable in those situations.

We decided on getting a noodle and rice plate with an egg roll on a stick.  See the sweet and sour sauce on the egg roll?  Of course, you don’t.  It happens to be a clear sauce.  If you can believe that.  As long as I can order a corn dog at the California State Fair, everything is all right with me.  We had corn dogs for dinner.  If you really want to know, I wanted the funnel cake.  I wanted it stacked with ooey, gooey strawberry filling.  Topped with about six inches of whipped cream.


My biggest fantasy would be getting to any state fair in the U.S. and plopping my butt down on some deserted table with every sample of grease or sugary dish that was available for human consumption.  Who needs to look at exhibits?  Who needs the rides?  Why would I want to go to a live concert by some famous singer or group or when I can sit down and listen to their music in my home or in my car?  Let’s get real.  There’s nothing like being fat and happy in California.

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And yet another thing!  Me and Mister Jack have kids–the furry kind that don’t talk back or get into your retirement money by way of extras like braces, college, weddings, grandchildren, etc.  This sign is a myth.  If you buy the “wisdom” on this blue ribbon, I have a sinking house in the swamps of Crescent City, California that I can sell you.  I know a spoiled, entitled brat when I see one because it takes one to know one.

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We don’t like rides.  We don’t win stuffed toys.  But we love, love, love the animals.   Check out the pink hooves on the pony.

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The only best behaved kids are the furry ones.  We don’t believe in bringing our dogs out in this heat.  Or any public place where people are eating, drinking or purchasing food.

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The Brewer’s Festival featured award-winning beers from the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew competition.  Since it was held near the racetrack, participants were able to view the horse racing while sipping samples of micro-brew from a 5-ounce souvenir mug.  Award-winning Track 7 Brewing is a local favorite–as well as a favorite with the judges.  I sat in the shade with my complimentary Coke.  And got eaten up by bugs.

We made our usual rounds at the urban gardening exhibit because we are always looking for ideas when it comes to our 1/4 acre of suburbia.  I also make sure we hit the building displaying the county exhibits.  If a California county has travel brochures and publications, I’ll pick them up for my research.  I love to travel.  Although we are both native Californians, we will never know everything about our beautiful state.  But who says we can’t try?  Travel is the best way to see the world.

What???  You’ve never been to California?  Come on down because we’d love to have you!  I was born in Sacramento and raised in the Sacramento River Delta.  Let this farm girl give you two links to get you started:

Davis Ranch Corn Festival

In Places on July 16, 2014 at 8:30 am

Another form of California gold is corn.  Even in this severe California drought and with fire season in full force, people still flock to the Davis Corn Ranch Festival in Sloughhouse.  The extremely family-friendly and dog-friendly annual event is a chance for me and Mister Jack to take a drive into the country for our usual two grocery bags filled with white and yellow corn.  Using California State Route 16, tiny Sloughhouse is only 17 miles east of Downtown Sacramento.   Another plus?  The corn is GMO-free.  Their outdoor fruit and vegetable market is open most of the year.  It also sells goodies like jams, jellies, barbecue sauce, dried gourds and ornaments for your garden.

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Admission to the Davis Ranch Corn Festival is free of charge.  We stayed long enough to grab a quick, cheap meal,  sit on hay bales and listen to the Chris Gardner Band.  While children played in the “dried corn box” at the back of the makeshift concert location, Gardner explained to the audience that he came from the Sloughhouse area.  I approached him during a short break, and he explained that his band performed at the California State Fair the night before.  And they were headed to Lake Tahoe for another performance–as well as a way to escape the valley heat.  He mentioned more gigs over the summer.  Gardner and his band also perform at numerous locations in Sacramento and the surrounding areas.

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The Davis Ranch can accommodate crowds.  The parking lot has expanded since I first visited in the late 80s.  There is a picnic area next to the strawberry patch.  At the back of the parking lot, you’ll see the Christmas tree lot.  Besides the numerous food, drink and craft booths, there are hay rides, pony rides and other activities for children and their families.

If you missed the Davis Ranch Corn Festival in Sloughhouse this year, there’s always next year.  If you’re interested in gourd arts and crafts, entertainment and food, the upcoming 6th Annual Davis Ranch Gourd Festival will be held on September 27-28, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The gourd artist has plenty of choices when it comes to buying gourds from the ranch.

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For more information, here’s a link:


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