Oct 21, 2013

The past 30 days have been insanely busy for me as I competed in the Fireball Run for my second year, our season finale at the Houston Grand Prix with Pirelli World Challenge and then a week in Austin, Texas instructing with Cadillac’s V-Lab (not to mention I didn’t see my front doorstep for about three months during the race season)! Needless to say, I’m happy to be writing this blog on my couch in my pj’s.

You may remember my Fireball Run blog from last year but just in case you don’t, allow me to first tell you what it’s all about. Fireball Run consists of 40 teams from all over the nation to compete in an 8 day, 2,000 mile interactive motor vehicle adventure game. We have to navigate the route using everything (and everyone) at our disposal solving clues to accomplish missions. In other words, for 8 days we turn our lives over to Fireball Run and willingly agree to getting zero sleep and have no clue where and what we’re doing each day. Sounds fun right?

But let me tell you, this is one of the coolest experiences I’ve been fortunate to be a part of getting to see America’s great landscapes, see and learn about things I would of never forced myself to do on my own, creating new and unique friendships all while helping aid in the recovery of missing children. Fireball Run is the nation’s largest recovery effort for missing kids and since 2007 this adventurally is responsible for finding 43 missing children. Each team is assigned a child from their region which we represent on the car and we distribute over 1,000 posters everywhere we go.

I always get asked, “Who competes in this and what kind of cars are entered?” This year we were amongst business leaders, politicians, stunt drivers, a two-time world champion female barrel racer, an astronaut, and even legendary chief test driver for Lamborghini and many more. I competed with my teammate from last year, Tarah Mikacich, professional wakeboarder who I grew up water skiing with! The theme this year was “Movie Stars and Cars” and some people definitely played their characters well! Hendrick Honda and were extremely generous to lend us a brand new 2013 Honda Civic Si therefore it totally made sense that we go as the chicks from the movie series, Fast & Furious! I was excited about driving the Hendrick Honda Civic Si being that I raced a Si in 2010-2012!

There was also a Lamborgini Gallardo Balboni, Ferrari 360, an ambulance wrapped to look like M*A*S*H, a Rally Fighter wrapped to look like a cop car, massive trucks, the “Back to the Future” DeLorean, a classic Trans Am, etc.

Having one year under our belts we knew going into it how to play the game better. We had alliances from last year and extended our help when we uncovered clues to form more alliances and used CB radios to communicate. Why wouldn’t we just use a cell phone you ask? Because Fireball Run brought us to ridiculously remote areas, I didn’t have service for a solid three days and Tarah’s was in and out a lot. We also tried to find locals in every town to show us the way, and when all else failed we stuck close to the other flamboyant and extreme vehicles! Our pink racing flag graphics thanks to VisionX Custom Graphics was hard to miss as well. From the get-go we knew we were doing well simply because our competitors knew what our rear bumper said, “!”

Deciphering clues led us to some of the most beautiful places in America and the chance to interact directly with the communities we went to.

We started in Longmont, Colorado which was affected by the severe floods. When we arrived you could see where the water lines on homes and businesses were. Fireball Run came together to help deliver food to people through the charity Meals on Wheels and made financial contributions to the community. We went to the Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum and sat in the cockpit of the Navy’s first supersonic aircraft, built in 1955. 

We now know what a $20,000 squash blossom style turquoise necklace looks like on us while we were in Gallup, New Mexico. At a Navajo Chapter house we met one of the oldest living “Code Talkers” from WWII (Navajo was the only language/code the Germans and Japanese couldn’t crack). Tears came to my eyes listening to the 92 year old soldier as he sat in a wheelchair with cataracts covering both eyes. The sacrifice that he and other Navajos made for our country was very moving. The Navajo people, private as they are, welcomed us like family. They showed us their way of weaving, jewelry craftsmanship, and cooking.

As we drove on past ShipRock, we came to one of my favorite places on this journey: Page, Arizona. It is considered the most isolated city in the U.S. At first glance we didn’t see much, but then we got to take a hummer adventure down to the secret slot canyons. The most amazingly beautiful rock formations I’ve ever seen! Not to mention how dry the air was there! Thankfully I had my Sportique Brands Body Care line with me so my skin wasn’t crazy dry! (I’m a Florida girl, used to humidity!)

We paddled across the muddy waters of the San Juan River and back, found a 20 foot statue of a dog fully covered in dog tags, went to the place where the Griswold’s camped in National Lampoon’s Vacation and got the key to Sparky’s cabin. During one of our passage controls a.k.a. “lunch” someone saw TrueCar on the car and told me about their positive experience using when buying their new car! I went on to tell them I bought my current racecar via too but that took a little more convincing!

While in Mesa, Arizona I met Miss Lee Doerr at Falcon Field Airbase. She is a WWII American hero from the W.A.S.P. program. She was such a spitfire and extremely heroic, humble and inspirational. We definitely connected when I told her that I am a racing driver. She even asked for a ride!

We got tons of bonus points for this random wooden green alien that our Facebook friends helped us find! 

We even got to hold a fragment from Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra twin-engine that she crashed in Honolulu in 1937. 

I consider myself fairly artistic so I volunteered to sculpt Tarah’s face for bonus points. Bad decision, here’s why:

While we were in Bloomfield, New Mexico, we were given the opportunity to enter the Tower Kiva at Salmon Ruins. No member of the public has ever been permitted entry here before, for both archeological and spiritual reasons. While there, we had the white glove experience of holding a 1,000-year-old bowl made by the Chacoan people.

We met so many great people in every town we went through. Thousands of people came out to support and graciously host us. The community effort was heartwarming!  The residents and business owners were so happy with our efforts and very willing to hang missing child posters. 

By the last day of Fireball Run, we were exhausted, out of clean socks and home sick, yet, we didn’t want it to end. We just wanted a day off! We made more u-turns this day than any other. Windows were very tight to make it to missions and gather as many bonus points as possible.  We had been somewhere in the top 5 for almost the entire rally, but anything could happen on the last day. We finally made it to the finish line in Riverside, California to celebrate with Lucas Oil and K&N Filters handing out stickers and brochures to the people in the community.

Later that night was the banquet and awards ceremony. Now, last year we won our class and were absolutely competing to defend that title. Having no idea where we stood in the points they announced our names for 1st in the Coupe Class! They called us up again for the Social Media Guru Award (meaning we were the most active on social media and we tagged our host cities with all the amazing adventures they allowed us to experience) and then they announced the overall winners… and it turns out we placed 2nd Overall! We were pumped!

The best news though came at the end of the night. A competitor from the Alfred State team took the stage to tell us the children they were representing were uncovered. Everyone rose to their feet cheering with emotion.

Tarah and I loved getting to partake in this incredible production, from which 20 webisodes and a movie (premiering at the Orlando Film Festival next year) will be made. We have many people to thank for putting us in the Fireball Ball Run: Hendrick Honda, TrueCar, Lucas Oil, K&N Filters, Sportique Brands,, RFX Transport, O’Brien Watersports, Great Lakes Boat Top, Westland Covers and SayiWon’t. We also humbly express our sincerest gratitude to the communities that hosted us and to the whole Fireball Run production. It was “epic” as Fireballers say!