Houston, Texas


As you all know, despite what it may appear like, I work for a living although admittedly I am the poster child for the phrase “work to live – not live to work”. One of my goals is to share how I do this.

Yes. It’s true. I am blessed. I have a license to practice law. It is an invaluable asset which I worked very hard for while raising my daughter on my own and the only asset I have as I sold everything in 2015 for my round the world tour. I didn’t do this so much to get money for the world tour although you can if you choose to. I did it to in order to reduce overhead. It is cheaper to travel the world than it is to pay rent/mortgage, electricity, storage, internet and other overhead for a home and/or an office in the States. Having said that, as a commercial litigator, I have to return to Houston periodically for trials, hearings, depositions and mediations. I usually spend a couple weeks here and then get on a plane to my next destination where I do the remainder of my work preparing for those trials etc. remotely. This is one of those weeks. While here in the great State of Texas, I do try to fit in visits with my family and friends so when my best friend, Alex, invited me to a drift racing event today, I said “heck ya!” but only after I thought “In the rain? Again?” This is because ironically the last time I was at a similar event it was the Formula One Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Brazil and it rained cats and dogs all day…utterly miserable…and while I’m totally into these kind of outdoor high speed, high adrenaline and, of course, NEW experiences, I most definitely prefer sunshine to rain.

Leave it up to me to turn a spectator event into an opportunity to participate in yet another adventure! As per usual, I remembered my Go Pro and forgot my sanity and headed over to ask the most talented drifter of the day with the raddest car if I could join him in a ride along for a lap around the track. I will never forget what I learned almost 10 years ago in the break room from a lawyer in my office, Melissa, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” She asked me rhetorically. “All they can say is no.” Melissa, when she taught me this, was talking about requesting free shipping during online Christmas shopping NOT whether you should approach a total stranger and ask them if you can join them for an activity that requires a helmet to protect what brains you clearly don’t possess and requires a 3 point restraint harness to strap you in a metal cage a/k/a a drift car you probably shouldn’t be in and where the worst thing that can happen is he says “no”? Gimme a break Suzanne!

At least, for the first time in my life, my best friend accused me of being a good influence as he got to go for a lap too. (I hope it’s the last time he accuses me of this.)

In lieu of a flag, the starter counted down three, two, one and off Michael Van Shellenbeck went shifting his modified BMW drift car into gear and peeling out towards the first turn. While my body remained securely in the passenger seat, my stomach was on the floorboard and my heart pounded out of my chest and was left behind on the starting line but no worries as I figured if I survived this experiment, my heart, along with any loose clothing, would be returned to me…well at least my heart…maybe not so much the clothing 😉

BMW car drifting
Photography by Micah Goff: http://highlydefinedreality.photography/

In drift racing, the car mysteriously loses traction in the rear or all the tires causing it to slide sideways around the turns. It is like doing donuts in a wet parking lot except when it’s done by an expert like Michael he has total control of where the car is on the track at all times. He oversteers and shifts in apparent unison and magically accomplishes a true car driving contradiction: he is controlling what his car is doing when his tires no longer grip the road. While I expected the experience to include me losing my grip over my fear (and for that matter reality), it was nothing like that with Michael behind the wheel. It was more like a professional ice skater duo in perfect synchronization with each other and the music dancing on the ice. There was no jerking and being tossed about or whiplash of any sort, it was rhythmic and graceful despite the high speeds and overly zealous and aggressive approach to each turn. There was an actual peacefulness to it like the earth was turning perfectly on its axis…that moment when you sometimes feel like you have mastered control over something that is completely out of control…turned something completely irrational into something rational….walked the proverbial and literal thinnest line of all time without losing your balance. I imagine this is why drift racers do it – to control something that is impossible to control. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is also the most exhilarating 60 seconds of an adrenaline rush in a motorized vehicle one can have and following it I became sure that Mr. Webster absolutely needed to come up with a whole new word for fun as the definition of fun – “enjoyment, amusement, light hearted excitement” – doesn’t even begin to cover this sport. Suffice it to say, you should definitely download and watch Tokoyo Drift immediately or the episode on drifting done by Grand Tour this season on Amazon and then head out to a racetrack at your earliest possible convenience preferably in Japan where this whole sport was invented!

That’s all for now. Lots of serious “whoo hoos” and gratitude for Michael from none other than my hometown – Houston, Texas.

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