On a personal note…

I would just like to congratulate by brother, Zachary Griffith, on his graduation from Morro Bay High School.

I would also like to congratulate my cousin, James Erickson, on his high school graduation as well. To both of you, I say this: you are now adults, and are off to make your own lives. I know this freedom can be both exciting and scary. Life is full of risks and opportunities. But ultimately, you can’t overthink things and paralyze yourself with weighing all the options. Just do what feels right. Only you can know what will make you happy. Find something you are passionate about, and you will never go in to work sighing “Another day, another dollar.” You will go in to work thinking “Another day, another opportunity!”

Best of luck to both of you, and to all of the Class of 2011!

Cal Poly students fix up an old race car to race again

Christian Rheinisch was told, “If you can make it turn right, you can have it.” The 1979 Buick LeSabre had been sitting helplessly, unused and abandoned, for five years. An inglorious ending to a car that had a racing pedigree at the Santa Maria Speedway. The car belonged to Grant Tucker, who Rheinisch knew through Kal Off Road Racing, a local racing team and fabrication business.

Rheinisch saw potential. In his own words, “The car is 90% there.” The frame was in good shape, and it already had a rollcage and racing driver’s seat installed. Setting up behind the Farm Shop building on the Cal Poly campus, Rheinisch began the mechanical work to bring “The Beast” back to life.

“If you can make it turn right, you can have it.”

 -Grant Tucker, Kal Off Road Racing

Rheinisch is the founder and President of the Cal Poly Industrial Technology Racing Division, an organization he set up within the Industrial Technology Department. Rheinisch initially tried to set up his team as a school club, but he says those plans fell apart because of bureaucratic red tape. He found it easier to set up his team within the department as an official school activity. As such, the racing team is funded through the school, though Rheinisch will happily accept donations.

Right now, Rheinisch is one of only a handful of people who have worked on the car; he has no real “racing team” yet. But he hopes to get a dozen dedicated volunteers to race in events throughout California representing Cal Poly. He needs four or five drivers and several mechanics, of course, but he also says he is willing to take on anybody who is interested. “We need a cook.” He says, “Having a good cook with you when you go out to a race is a big deal. And this car does need to have a theme… if you’re an art major, and you think that painting a ’79 Buick LeSabre would be a cool senior project, let me know. We can make it an art car.”

Rheinisch poses with his helpers and the car, which they have nicknamed “The Beast”.

Rheinisch has attracted interest from some groups on campus. The Industrial Technology Society, a club for Industrial Technology majors, and the Cal Poly Motor Car Association, a club for driving enthusiasts, are both in discussions to partner with Rheinisch and help his project. Russell Gruener, the President of the ITS, regularly helps out Rheinisch with his car on an informal basis.

“Having a good cook with you when you go out to a race is a big deal.”

-Christian Rheinisch, Founder and President, Cal Poly Industrial Technology Racing Division

Rheinisch’s first goal is to enter his car in the 24 Hours of LeMons race series. A pun on the famous LeMans endurance race in France, the LeMons is a series of races across the United States where beat-up old cars that have been fixed up are run for a whole day to see which cars survive. The event is known for being playful and sarcastic. Rheinisch says one team covered their Lincoln Continental in birch bark and raced in beaver suits. The series’ website says the event is “a breeding ground for morons” and asks its visitors if they want more spam e-mails.

There are three upcoming events in California.

  • August 6: At the Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, near Chico.
  • October 22: At the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
  • December 3: At the Buttonwillow Raceway near Bakersfield.

Rheinisch hopes to enter his car in all three races, though he is doubtful it will be ready in time for the August race. He says he hopes to enter his car and racing team in several events during the school year as time and money allows.

“[Even] if you really don’t think you have anything you can bring to the table, we’ll figure something out for you,”

-Rheinisch

Rheinisch’s goals don’t end with his LeSabre. He says that he wants to build a new race car from scratch, a “franken-car” as he called it. He and other Cal Poly students would gather the numerous parts from whatever sources they could find and assemble the car themselves. The finished “franken-car” would then be tested and, Rheinisch hopes, entered into several races during the school year.

For now, though, Rheinisch is just looking for students to drop by behind the Farm Shop building and help out. He says the best way to volunteer is to get in touch with him. “[Even] if you really don’t think you have anything you can bring to the table, we’ll figure something out for you,” he says.

Naturally, Rheinisch and his friends are not above having some fun and being silly.

Legislature moves to save California’s state parks from closing

The California State Senate is considering a bill that will keep 70 California state parks open, including Morro Strand State Beach, the Governor’s Mansion, and Moss Landing State Beach. The bill, AB 42, will allow nonprofit organizations to run these parks, giving the State Parks Service a reprieve.

The list of state parks that are slated to close was released in May. The closures were deemed necessary in order to adjust to a $22 million budget cut in the state parks system, one of many cuts Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed in his budget in order to get California’s financial house in order.

State park camping fees were increased by $10 or more per day back in 2009 at all state parks, in an attempt to stave off park closures. Yet last year, voters rejected Prop 21, a ballot measure that would have increased vehicle licence fees and used the money to fund the parks.

The State Parks Service selected the parks on the closure list because they had low attendance; according to their figures, 92% of annual state park attendance would be unaffected, and only 6% of the parks’ annual revenues from camping fees and the like would be lost.

I went down to Morro Strand to get some local reactions to the park closures and the bill to save the parks.

If the bill passes the Senate, it will need the signature of the governor for approval into law.

Cal Poly students put on a comedy about commies

Communism may not seem like the most obvious source of humor, but there is plenty to laugh about in SMASH, a play that Cal Poly theater students are putting on this weekend.

Based on “An Unsociable Socialist” by George Bernard Shaw, the play tells the story about a rich man who leaves his bride and his life behind for the revolution. I was given an exclusive backstage look at their preparations:

Performances are at 8 p.m. on May 19, 20, and 21 with an additional showing at 2 p.m. on the 21st. Tickets are available through this link.

Morro Bay entrepreneur shares his story of success

Huy Ngo, local entrepreneur

If there is one thing Huy Ngo likes about being an entrepreneur, it is being his own boss. “Why earn money for someone else when you can earn money for yourself?” he says. That is why he has, in turn, owned a party supply store, a speed-dating service, a street donut stand, and a paralegal service. His brain is always bubbling with new ideas.

His latest venture is different, though. This time, he is involving the whole family in the business. His new family-owned restaurant at 1698 Main Street in Morro Bay will specialize in custom-to-order hamburgers and hot dogs as well as fresh-cut fries. It will also serve coffee and pastries in the morning, and primarily focus on attracting local customers. Everything in the restaurant will be under $10, he assures me.

Born in Vietnam, Ngo came to the United States as a small child and grew up in Morro Bay. He is well-connected with local politicians and the Chamber of Commerce, and also has many friends in the police department. He formerly worked at a local candy store, but was laid off recently. Rather than take that as a bad thing, he has used his newfound free time to work on getting his restaurant ready to open.

Ngo’s friends always ask him what his secret to success is, but Huy insists there is no secret – you merely need to do what you love.

Ngo’s new restaurant is still under construction, but he plans to open by July 4 of this year.