PIT crews and NASCAR hot laps.  The full racing experience.

PIT crews and NASCAR hot laps. The full racing experience.

In the world of “Cars 3” Lightning McQueen and his fellow racers are assisted by their pit crew teams. These helpers can be the difference between winning and second place. The same can be said for real life racing. What happens when you take 6 crewmates, toss them into a loud, hot, hectic environment. Then throw in an 850hp racecar

Lightnings Lugs

hurtling towards them at 55mph? You get a NASCAR pit crew! These teams are trained to do in less than 15 seconds what us regular drivers take 15 minutes, on a good day! While on a Disney*PIXAR junket for “Cars 3” I had the amazing opportunity to experience a very lite version of what these teams do. Thanks to the folks at Performance Instruction and Training (PIT) we were able to suit up, grab the socket wrench, and go through just about the same motions as the real teams, without the gasoline and moving cars.

Pit row

The visit to PIT starts of with a very informative presentation that covers the history of the NASCAR pit crews, the specific roles and responsibilities of each position, and what you can expect to experience later on. Everyone involved is either an active member of an active NASCAR pit crew, or was one. These guys really know what they’re talking about and they take it very seriously. We were part of a faily large group, so they broke us up into 6 different teams. Safety is of paramount importance, so we were setup with a suit, gloves, hearing, and eye protection. They led us out to pit row, where we were given live demonstrations of each position and the chance to practice a couple of times to get a feel for how the equipment feels. These are real NASCAR tires and wheels, real gas can (no gas), even the jack is authentic. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at the air-powered wrench and I was able to fill that spot for the team. Team 2, Lightnings Lugs, rear wheel changer… yeah that’s me.

Game face

Like I said, there were 6 different teams, so of course there had to be a little competition going. There are 3 cars set in position, so 3 teams at a time can run the drill. They lined us up in place and blew the whistle to start. Now on the first attempt all you want to do is be accurate and not make a big mistake. Slow and steady they said. Sure enough we all started moving into our positions and executing our assigned roles. It’s really a fast paced ballet with every move choreographed. Wrench on, lugs off, tire off to the right, new one handed in from the left, position on hub and power the lugs back on. Jump up, kneel down, lugs off, wait for jackman, tire off to the right, new tire in from the left, lugs on, back away. In about the time it took to read that, a professional pit crew can change 4 tires without gas. Our apprentice crew of first timers took a little under 2 minutes on our first attempt. All told not a bad time they said. We head back to the garage to review the video with our crew chief.

Performance review

This really helps because we can see exactly where we can save steps and be more efficient. We were able to perform another 3 pit stops and in the process our time went down to just over a minute. We may not have been ready for Charlotte Motor Speedway but that was some serious improvement. Our team may not have won (congratulations Children of the Forest,) but we all had a fantastic time.

Lug nuts off

PIT is an active pit crew training school with graduates working for major teams, however they also use the pit experience as a way to teach team building, build improvement processes, and teach lean concepts to numerous businesses including the U.S. military. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in their program I would highly recommend it.

Now I had a better understanding of what happens on pit row, but what about on the track? Thanks to our Disney*PIXAR hosts and Charlotte Motor Speedway I was going to find out. Officially called the “NASCAR Racing Experience” you are able to ride as a passenger with a professional racing instructor in a real NASCAR race car. For 3 laps, at speeds of 175 mph or more, you get the chance to really feel what it’s like for the driver athletes who race for a living. I’m a driving enthusiast. My motorcycle is a performance model, my car is as well. I’ve been on closed tracks where you can “open it up” for a bit. Nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the feeling of that NASCAR dropping in to turn 1 at speed.

Car 88

The engine is roaring and you hear the small pieces of track debris hitting the body, reminiscent of scenes in “Cars 3”. The driver gets into the groove and your body is just pushed to the right against the 5-point harness. Everything you’ve done before tells you that the car is going to spin out, but the driver, aerodynamics, and racing tires do their jobs and you simply run through until you exit onto the back straight. Charlotte is a tri-oval, so this dance happens 8 more times until before you know it you’re pulling in to pit row and the experience is over. A fistbump of thanks to my driver and then it was time to work my way back out of the car.

The Experience is offered in many different levels and price points, from 3 lap ride alongs, to full 40 lap solo racing sessions. It’s probably a good thang that I don’t live anywhere near the Charlotte area, because I would be spending lots of time at the track. If you’re at all interested in racing, or would like to give someone a gift that they will forever remember, the NASCAR Racing Experience is unforgettable.

PIT Instruction and Training
156 Byers Creek Road
Mooresville, NC 28117
[email protected]
Tel: 704-799-3869
Fax: 704-799-3871

Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. South
Concord, NC 28027

Charlotte Motor Speedway – Much more than just left turns

Charlotte Motor Speedway – Much more than just left turns

Every sport has its iconic venue – Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, Madison Square Garden, to name a few.  Racing is no different. On a recent Disney PIXAR press junket for CARS 3 we were treated to exclusive access to one such location. For the sport of racing, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the “Mecca of Motorsports.”  Sitting on over 2000 acres of prime North Carolina land, just 13 miles from downtown Charlotte, this destination contains tracks that support many different levels of racing competition. (more…)

Our Pennsylvania adventure was EPIC and there is sooo much more to do in Pennsylvania

Our Pennsylvania adventure was EPIC and there is sooo much more to do in Pennsylvania

This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Visit PA. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Right before we left on our great Pennsylvania adventure I made a blog post about our 5 stops.  Once we got on the road we headed to Gettysburg.  It took only 3.5 hours from New York City to pull into the hotel in Gettysburg.  The hotel lobby even had a giant civil war cannon in the lobby, so clearly this place all about the history. After settling into the hotel, we headed to town to check out the local eats.  There are two recommend restaurants/pubs right in the middle of town… the meal was totally enjoyable walking around the rotary circle you could see how pretty much all the buildings were from the 1800’s and some had plates describing their historical importance.

The next morning we headed to the Land of Little Horses, I HIGHLY recommend visiting this place if you have little kids. They run a schedule of events, by the time we arrived we had missed the Tricks (which I hear is the highlight of the day)… but we ended up getting there in time for brush time, which I gotta say was even better for my daughter Harper who loved brushing the horses. In speaking with the nice ladies that ran the admission/gift shop area – you should check groupon as they from time to time offer discounted admission.  They also offer food to feed the animals, which was $5 and worth it.  Seeing the kids faces light up as the horses, goats and sheep loved to eat it.

Here are some more photos from our visit of the Land of Little Horses…






For our next stop we headed over to the Harley Davidson Factory tour in York PA… It was just over an hour drive to get there (with a fair bit of traffic), There are two types of tours a paid for tour that includes going on the factory floor (but you need to be older then 12 years old) and a free area which shows the step by step process of how a Harley Davidson Motorcycle is made…. Needless to say the kids totally had fun hamming it up on the bikes that were on displayed.


After that we drove another 15 minutes to the Haines Shoe House.  Tours of the shoe only cost $5 and tell the story of how the house came to be and while its not an official landmark its become a landmark to all the locals.  The best part is there is now an ice cream shop at the base of the shoe. While there make sure you say Hi to Melanie the new owners of the shoe house.


After that we spent night in Intercourse, PA which is like the heart of Amish country, the people who made farm to table a thing in some way shape or form.  For the kids it was really interesting to see how a group of people live unlike anyone they’ve known.  To see cars driving next to horse and buggies as actual modes of transportation, unlike the little rides around central park was fascinating to my son.


Then it was time to head to the Strasburg Rail Road, one of the oldest running steam rail roads in the country. We opted to purchase tickets for the dinning car… which is one of the only cars you are allowed food in (also on most days you need to make a reservation in advance for that car but since it was a bit of rainy day we lucked out).  Although the ride was only 9 miles long, it still was an adventure for the kids and they loved it.


After that we headed to Philadelphia to see the Spruce Street Harbor Park, which was awesome…. there was giant games for the kids to play, hammocks to swing in and a floating dock bar for the adults to play around and party in at night.  Theres a major schedule of events and concerts… so I know next time we’ll need to plan some lounging time there. Then we walked just two blocks over to see different parts of “old town” which has buildings dating back to the 1700’s… as we walked thru old town we ended up having Pizza at Pizzera Stella (which was amazing)… I wanted Philly Cheese Steaks but got out voted.


We awake mother’s day with the ability to do 1 last thing… I left it up to my wife and she wanted to do the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia museum of the arts. So we climbed the steps (and trust me we werent alone in that mission)… got to the top and started to ask where they moved the statue of rocky (PS. its now the right of the steps, when you’re looking up at the steps.) We then walked down Benjamin Franklin Highway to capture an amazing shot of my wife and kids and see the Rodin Museum for a bit before it was time to call it a trip and head back to New York.

I’m sooo glad we had a list of Things to do in Pennsylvania cause some of these things we would never had done if we planned the trip ourselves.  Sure we’ve done Great Wolf Lodge and Sesame Place but never would have had some of these activities on my list.  Also when you look at the Pennsylvania map, its massive almost like really thats a big state but there are soooo many different stories throughout the state – it makes for a great trip.  Who knows maybe next time we’ll try camping in PA, but more than likely we’ll do Hershey’s Chocolate World and Crayola factory on our next visits.


Our road trip adventure of Pennsylvania begins now

Our road trip adventure of Pennsylvania begins now

This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Visit PA. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

This trip is like the Amazing Race for bloggers.  They will give us things to do in PA and we compete against other bloggers to win while we Visit Pennsylvania using the Pennsylvania map!
The other bloggers are:
Zipporah, ChampagneLiving.net
Danasia, TheUrbanRealist.com
Becky, yourmodernfamily.com
We have to go to five places… then each time that we get somewhere, we can win a prizes but so can you!  During the upcoming contests you can win a swag pack by chatting with us on social media! You can do it by commenting with the hashtags #AdventurePA, #VisitPA and by following @Visit_PA and @dadarocks.

Now where are we going? All overPennsylvania!

Here are our 5 Things to do in Pennsylvania…

Land of little horses – The girls are going to love this one… It’s based out of Gettysburg and has been around for over 45 years. The girls will get up close and personal with our famous namesake miniature horses and their farm animal friends. Races, Displays, and Special Events are sure to delight the kids.


Harley-Davidson Factory Tour – Based out of York, PA since 1973 the factory tour begins with an introductory video and continues on the factory floor where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the people, processes and products of Vehicle Operations.


Haines Shoe House – Yes in 1948 a house was built to look like a shoe. Looks to have some tasty ice cream sandwiches which I’m sure we’ll need to bribe the kids for a photo in front of the house.


Strasburg Rail Road – Is America’s oldest operating railroad with a charter dating back to June 9, 1832. You might have heard of them for their famous Thomas Train rides that they offer on special dates thought out the year.


Spruce Street Harbor Park – Named one of the best places to visit in Philadelphia by national press, Spruce Street Harbor Park sustained by Univest features colorful hammocks, floating gardens, beautiful lights, refreshing craft beer, and food from popular Philly restaurants.


Now if you’re thinking about places to visit in PA, I highly recommend checking out the Visit Pa website, they’ve got Deals & Events listed out. Trip ideas for Family Getaways or maybe taking in all the history of PA is more your style. Plus its got a great list of places to eat – which is super important when traveling with a family.

Marc has been studying the map and is ready to be my copilot on this trip (We’ll see how long that lasts before he falls asleep but we’re off….


LEGOLAND Florida Resort – Where Everything is Awesome

LEGOLAND Florida Resort – Where Everything is Awesome

legoland-Fl-gatesFor the better part of least the last 35 years my family has been venturing to the theme parks of Central Florida. As the father of two Lego-obsessed boys ages 3 and soon to be 7 who loved the Yonkers New York LEGOLAND Discovery Center we were excited to check out LEGOLAND Florida Resort for the first time for Dada Rocks.

lego-hotel-buildSandwiched between trips to Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios Florida we packed up the grandparents and our kids into our rental minivan and headed Southwest from Orlando to Winter Haven, Florida home to LEGOLAND Florida Resort, which was built beside the old Cypress Gardens Botanical Gardens site. After meeting friends with a 10 month-old daughter and super hero and Lego loving 4-year boy old we ventured into the park past the soon to open LEGOLAND Hotel Opening Summer 2015.

SAM_0378When you enter the park you are soon met with some cool Lego retail spaces one aptly named the BIG Store, a theater and some go to eating spots the highlighted by the cafeteria style Market Restaurant. From the park’s entrance you enter Fun Town which is highlighted by a double decker carousel fun for younger kids called The Grand Carousel. Once past the Grand Carousel you enter the newly opened Duplo Valley. The four year olds in our group particularly loved the DUPLO Tractor ride, the DUPLO Train and the DUPLO Tot Spot. This area of the park seemed especially fun if it was a warmer day. The day we visited was overcast and in the 70s with monsoon like rains forecasted for the afternoon, but we’ll get to that later.

SAM_0501From Duplo Valley we headed into the World of Chima. Amidst the World of Chima you’ll find an absolute can’t miss water ride called the Quest for CHI that allows you to fire water cannons from a moving boat and at sometimes unsuspecting patrons walking by the ride. This ride is especially a blast for Parents and kids looking for an excuse to shoot their kids or parents with a water cannon. My Friend Mark and I both in our latter 30s particularly had a blast spraying water at my almost 70 year old dad and kids with Mark’s four year old son Alex. Had it been a warmer day I personally could have spent hours on this ride. For parents this is also a great source of fun payback should your kids misbehave on the ride down to Orlando.

SAM_0502From this “area of parental awesome” you enter a medieval section of the park called Lego Kingdoms that features some very fun rides for kids including the Royal Joust ride that simulates riding a horse in a joust. The cute factor on this ride is out of control and a must photograph moment. Lego Kingdoms also features the first of four roller coasters called the Dragon ideal for older kids and adults.

From Lego Kingdoms you enter the Land of Adventure where you encounter a very, very cool looking dinosaur themed wooden roller coaster called Coastersaurus. However just as we were pondering a ride on The Dragon or Coastersaurus the heavens opened up and we chose lunch instead.

For lunch we doubled back to the cafeteria-like Marketplace Restaurant. We found the food in the park to be relatively healthy and reasonably priced, featuring some different food options like Asian stir fry, roasted chicken and build your own milkshake bar. Marketplace was also a great place to ride out the rain because it featured a play area where the kids played Legos as the adults enjoyed dessert and a coffee.

SAM_0556Freshly refreshed and caffeinated we ventured out into the monsoon like conditions into Miniland, which is the absolute can’t miss part of the park. In Miniland you and your family you can check out Lego Star Wars worlds and figures, and an interactive Kennedy Space Center, Daytona Speedway, the Las Vegas Strip, Manhattan skyline, Washington DC, South Beach, San Francisco Bay Area, Hollywood and more, all made out of Legos. The artistry and imagination in this part of the park is on par or better than with just about anything else you’ll see in a theme park in Central Florida.

SAM_0545From Miniland you enter our favorite part of the park: Lego City. In Lego City you can take in theme park shows like the NFPA Big Test live show, the very cool Boating School boat ride, and the junior and regular Ford Driving School which allows younger kids the experience of driving a small car and allows older kids to get a kids drivers license equipped with a photo. The Ford Driving School turned out to be my 7 year old son’s favorite part of our 10 day Florida vacation.

Also in Lego City you can check out a very cool family friendly NFPA Rescue Academy fire truck ride where two family members pump a lever first to move the fire truck and then to pump water while the kids get to work a hose and put a fire out. This ride gives even the most physically fit parents a work out and it is highly competitive even in a driving rainstorm.

SAM_0564From Lego City the natural progression of the park takes you to either two more roller coasters: Project X and Flying School, two cool looking water rides, the old Cypress Gardens Botanical Gardens or a Pirate Cove themed water skiing show that looks straight out of Jaws 3. However due to the monsoon like conditions we chose about an hour’s worth of indoor Imagination Zone time where we created and raced our own Lego race car and built an earthquake proof Lego building. In particular the Imagination Zone employees were especially happy and helpful and the Imagination Zone is very similar to some of the experiences our kids loved about the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Yonkers, New York.

SAM_0499Some other tips and highlights for parents:

  • Our friend was nursing and she noted that the nursing facilities were on par or better than some of the larger parks.
  • Parking is plentiful and easily accessible without a tram, boat ride or navigating a parking garage.
  • For the trip from Orlando to Winter Haven we’d recommend playing the Lego Movie for your kids. The trip from Orlando typically allows for you to watch half the movie going to the park and half the ride going home.
  • While I’d say LEGOLAND is a can’t miss for families with kids from 4 to 12, I was surprised at all the park had to offer for teenagers and adults.
  • Since LEGOLAND isn’t in Orlando the crowds tended to be smaller and the wait times less. This was a welcomed departure from Magic Kingdom and Universal where I spent most of the day monitoring our fast pass, checking wait times and looking at apps versus spending time with the family.

SAM_0356In conclusion, “Everything is Awesome” about LEGOLAND Resort Florida except the monsoon like rain we encountered and my family and I would strongly recommend making the trip down to Winter Haven, especially on a day where you could check out the Water Park or the new hotel. I would also go as far as to say it’s an absolute can’t miss if you have a Lego obsessed child under the age of 12. For my 4 and almost seven-year old boys it had more to offer than Universal and was on the same excitement as Magic Kingdom.

Two Major Announcements From LEGOLAND Florida!

Two Major Announcements From LEGOLAND Florida!

2014-01-15-LEGOLANDFLORIDARESORT-HOTEL-08LEGOLAND® Hotel at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is officially opening May 15, 2015! The announcement came today from General Manager of LEGOLAND Hotel, Kevin Carr, during a press event at the Hotel site, located just steps away from the theme park entrance.  LEGOLAND Florida Resort General Manager Adrian Jones also announced Heartlake City, the newest land based on the popular LEGO® Friends line of toys, is opening this summer.

Both additions are expected to boost the local economy. Carr expects to hire 150 Model Citizens (employees) to support the Hotel. “LEGOLAND Hotel offers a unique experience unlike any other in Florida,” said Carr. “Imagine how excited children will be to wake up in a giant toy box full of LEGO bricks and to be the first to enter the theme park each day.” Jones also announced a Master Model Builder Workshop being offered exclusively to Hotel guests. “LEGOLAND Hotel is an extension of the theme park experience and the stars of our Park are our Master Model Builders,” said Jones. “We’re moving the Model Shop into our Hotel and guests will be able to learn and build with our Model Builders daily in the Master Model Builder Workshop.”

Today’s event at the Resort included a hard hat tour with a behind-the-scenes look at the Hotel. Media and VIP guests were taken to one of the fifth floor suites to experience the spectacular views of Lake Eloise, the theme park with its 50 rides, shows and attractions, and the site of the future expansion, Heartlake City.

“When it opens in summer of 2015, Heartlake City will be a colorful and vibrant new land offering adventures for all ages,” said Jones. “The centerpieces will include a fantastic horse-themed disc coaster called Mia’s Riding Adventure and an interactive show, ‘Friends to the Rescue’ as well as new shops inside Heartlake Mall. Between our constant expansion, the new LEGOLAND Hotel opening in May and the Water Park re-opening in March, LEGOLAND Florida Resort is definitely a multi-day attraction.”