With the Formula Drift event at Long Beach wrapped up by Saturday evening, I had Sunday and Monday free before my long flight back to Singapore and I wanted to make the best out of my two remaining days.
My Sunday started off with a stop at In-N-Out Burger, a famous American fast food chain that started way back in 1948.
In-N-Out still retains its retro “old school” theme, including its simple and basic menu. There are only three types of burgers to choose from – Double-Double, Cheeseburger or Hamburger.
You can then choose to add fries and a drink to go with your burger. Ask for Animal Style and you get grilled onions with your burger, at an additional cost though. Instead of the typical soft drink, I recommend getting the Neapolitan milkshake, which is a mixture of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla all into one.
Till today, everything is still made fresh to order and there are no microwaves or freezers at In-N-Out. French fries are made from hand-diced fresh whole potatoes and the milkshakes are made from real ice cream.
The burger was super tasty, especially with its fried burger bread, but that also means a lot of calories! Every single item on the menu, including the drinks, has the calorie count and it makes me feel super guilty.
The cheeseburger I ate contains 480 calories (with onions), the freshly-cut French fries contain 395 calories, while the milkshake is about 590 calories. That one meal is equivalent to a day’s necessary intake of calories man!
The burgers, because of the fried bread, was super super oily! Check this out:
With a stomach full of oily (but yummy) food, I headed to Desert Hill Premium Outlets, which is about 92 miles away from Long Beach. The drive to Cabazon at Palm Springs took about two hours and is really situated far away from civilisation.
I found the whole concept and structure very familiar, including the building colours and layout, then I realised that it is part of Premium Outlets, the worldwide chain of outlet shopping centres. In January, the Gotemba Premium Outlets I visited in Japan is under the same management, hence the similarities!
This one is smaller than the one at Gotemba, with just 130 brands, including brands like Coach, Kate Spade, Levi’s, Cole Haan, Juicy Couture and Guess. European brands like Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Prada were surprisingly cheap there too!
Check out the traffic jam I encountered on the way there, while I started cam-whoring:
The car was chugging along quite slowly so I could take these side mirror shots without having the wind blowing into my hair and face uncontrollably.
Just for information – I’m the kind of person who cannot spend time going into every single shop and slowly going through nearly every item. I select certain brands that are of interest to me, walk in, survey the store and its contents, and will only zero in on items that catch my eye. With so many shopping bags in hand and so many layers of clothes on, it is a tad troublesome to keep trying on clothes so I will only try on pieces that are really worth the effort.
So I was done in about two hours (at 3pm), as I’m also not the kind who will look once and go away, then walk a second round so I can return and decide again. If I like it, I will get it. Certain items might need more time for consideration, but I usually end up not coming back to get them unless they are huge expensive products that must be thought over carefully.
Unfortunately, my friend needed quite a while more, so I plopped myself down at the cafe to get lunch and told him to come look for me soon as my handphone battery was running dangerously low.
I actually paid USD 3.99 for a bowl of yakisoba, which my mum can fry for probably less than a fraction of that price I paid. And yes I know I know, fly all the way to USA to eat yakisoba?! Well I felt a pang of craving when I looked at it and the rest of the stalls didn’t look too appetising either.
I went to wait in the car for another four and a half hours until 8.30pm when the skies turned dark and the shops closed for the day. Bored me started cam-whoring again during the rather agonising five-hour wait with my battery-flat phone:
It was 11pm by the time I was back in Long Beach so I headed back to my room to rest and do some work. The next day, I joined Formula Drift Asia drifters Muhammad Zaiham Hamdan (referred to as Bullzai) of Malaysia and Emmanuel Adwitya Amandio of Indonesia who were in town for the Formula Drift Long Beach event too.
On a mission to scout for new racing wear for the season, I followed them to Sube Sports, a motorsports equipment distributor with 260 dealers located in North, Central, and South America, Caribbean/Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Located in Huntington Beach, Sube Sports carries almost every racing wear brand such as Alpine Stars, Sparco, PUMA and more.
Not finding anything suitable, we went over to the Simpson facility situated at Harbor City, where their fire suits and team crew uniforms are manufactured.
Introducing myself as a member of the media, Dave Nelson the Vice President of Operations took some time to show us around the 52,000-square-foot place. Founded in 1959, Simpson’s headquarters is in Texas, where there is apparently more than 80,00 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space.
They have over 100 employees working in this branch alone – check out the number of sewing machines they have man. Each sewing machine is even individualised with their own lucky charms or photos, making everything so personalised and heartwarming. It was lunchtime then, hence the place was vacated. I was curious to know if the bulk of the employees are aging; I highly suspect so though.
Hell, they can make a customised suit in two weeks! Anyway, their embroidery section is quite scary too, with 36 big machines and 250 stitching heads. Sheesh! Just look at this area – ALL embroidery machines ONLY:
Dave was very kind and took us all around, including the design department where Edgar was in charge of creating embroidery programmes from the logos that customers want on their suits. It takes him approximately one and half hours to convert one logo picture into a full embroidery programme complete with the number of stitches. He was been doing this for 14 years!
Dave also explained to us about the creation of crew shirts, such as the t-shirt or shirts that crew members of a team wear (like a uniform). It is done by a process called dye sublimation, where the printing process uses heat to transfer dye from paper to fabric.
Having been to Stand21 factory in Dijon, France before where I went through a comprehensive learning experience about racewear and its production, it was easier for me to understand Simpson’s production this time and I was able to ask better questions. At one point, Dave even asked how I knew so much about fireproof suits! Ok I wouldn’t say that I know A LOT, but probably more than the average Joe.
A conference call meeting was awaiting Dave so we couldn’t chat too long. He has been with the company for over 10 years already and he has grown along with the company, hence assuming the position of Vice President of Operations today. He was excitedly showing us different parts of the facility and explaining the processes, displaying nothing but pure enthusiasm and love for his job.
I was very appreciative and grateful for his help! Initially I was trying to take photos of the production area through this glass window that the showroom installed for customers to have some behind-the-scenes views, but the salesgirl at the showroom took the effort to go into the office and ask if I could go inside and have a more thorough look.
What excited me most about Simpson is their ability to custom-make fully pink racing suits as they actually have pink Nomex (the flame resistant material used in racing suits)! That means I can actually order a suit entirely in pink; how cool is that! Watch how I went around the fabric materials hunting for any trace of pink which could contribute to my suit…
A customised suit can cost anywhere between USD 1,000 to USD 1,800 – hmmm I must think carefully about it!
Anyway, we were running late for our lunch appointment with Charles Ng, a Hong Kong drifter based in Los Angeles and is taking part in the full season of Formula Drift again this year. He came close to finishing Rookie of the Year last season! Meeting him at Evasive Motorsports at La Puente, his workshop sponsor, he took us to Guppy Tea House at Rowland Heights, which serves Hong Kong cafe-style food. The sweet and sour chicken with rice was very Westernised, though with a Chinese presentation, but I enjoyed it anyway!
Charles lives around the area and often comes to Guppy to eat, so he thought it would be a good idea to bring us there. After lunch we went back to Evasive Motorsports to look at his car and understand more about the workshop. Evasive was started in 2002 by Mike Chang, 30, a Taiwanese-born who moved to America at the age of 10.
Evasive has established itself in Time Attack, having won several titles, but they are new to drifting. Despite that, they were keen to sponsor Charles and hooked up with him before the last round at Irwindale last year. The partnership was sealed when Charles decided to run his own programme this year instead of driving for other teams, thus requiring a company that could provide the proper support and maintenance of his Mazda FC RX-7 to make it competitive.
Check out Charles Ng’s car upclose:
Charles is also actively competing in Time Attack races, so he is familiar with Evasive and their specialities, making the partnership a sound one. Though being new to drifting, Evasive is very professional about it and was excited about the crowd and the whole Formula Drift atmosphere, which is very different from the Time Attack setting they are used to. Other than sponsoring mechanical support and parts for Charles, Mike doubled up as his spotter too.
The three of them (Amandio, Bullzai and Charles) were like little boys when they talk about all things cars and drifting. I was trying to get shots of them poring over the engine and they did it, but not without loads of laughter:
Driving back to Long Beach to send Amandio to the airport (he has to return to school in Seattle where he is based now), I hung out at the Los Cerritos mall with Bullzai for a while before returning to the hotel to freshen up before meeting Daijiro Yoshihara for drinks.
Mike and Charles were intending to drive down just to join Bullzai, Dai and I for drinks on my last night in the States, but it didn’t happen so I spent my last night in the room writing stories! Haha…
I wished I had seen Santa Monica or even Beverly Hills, but no worries, I had a good time with the drifters and USA will always be waiting for me right? I hope to get to catch the Las Vegas Formula Drift ‘After Dark’ round where they drift at unearthly hours past midnight, or the Irwindale season closing round! *fingers crossed
Round 2 of Formula Drift hits the road of Atlanta this month before going to Palm Beach next month.