Greetings All! Thank you for reading. To informally introduce myself, my name is Steve and I'm with MOON Space Agency (MSA) within MOON of Japan (MOJ). Although being fairly new here at MOONEYES, Lady Luck was on my side as I was selected for this mission to cover the MOONEYES USA XMAS Party and events. Barely able to keep my composure, I graciously accepted and quickly tried to learn as much as possible as to what I just got myself into.

For the most part just being able to go to the US would be exciting, and even though I am American, I have to admit, it was genuinely exciting.

Just finishing off the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show and meeting all the great people and guests from the US that were there gave this trip even more value on a personal level as they would be there as well. Of course, business is business, so one must maintain that monotony as if this is all just another day of work.

Well, I have a blast at work to so either way, it was going to be a great trip. It would also be my first time back to the US in almost a decade! You see, I'm 2nd generation Japanese, my mother being from Japan, and this allows me the proper visa to live and work here.

There were many people here at MOONEYES with slight concerns about me going to the US. Although they were made into jokes, I have a feeling there was some truth rooted in there somewhere. I mean, sometime I wonder too! Some of the topics in discussion were like, why on earth would this American not be living in America - especially for all these years? Not even to visit his home country all this time? Perhaps there would be a blacked out, unmarked car waiting at the airport when we got there. That is, if Steve even gets through Customs... I mean, that is if Steve even gets on the plane... anyone see his Passport? Steve, you have a Passport right? Wait, when does it expire if it hasn't already? You sure you won't get deported, I mean, you know, immigration and all... You, you aren't, like, you know, WANTED or anything right - just kidding! - but really, you're not right...

The day came to depart in no time -

Four of us would travel together and return in five days. There was Goshu, Hasegawa, Wildman and me. We drove there in two cars, Goshu and Wildman in the 70s VW Van and Hasegawa and I in the Honda Fit. Without any delays, Shige-san would cast us off from MOONEYES Area-1 on time.
We made it to a special parking lot for travelers, dropped the cars off and got shuttled to our check-in area of the terminal. Korean Air was our method of transport that would take us directly to Los Angeles Airport (LAX). So far so good, no delays, no detours.
Got my tickets, my passport, let's go check in! While we were checking our baggage in, my name was called. The person at the counter showed me my passport and said it was expired! Wildman was standing there at the counter and his face turned pale and serious. "No, it's been extended," I said as I showed the page number that explains the reason and shows the proper date. The person at the counter blushed, Wildman's grin came back and we were on our way.
We had some time to kill, and there was some things that had to be done as well. Goshu picked up a new camera, some gifts and things. Wildman picked up a small bundle of gifts and then we all sat down for some Ramen.
We headed to the boarding gate and without any further delay, boarded the plane and took off on time. It was a smooth flight the entire 8+ hours there. I don't even recall any turbulence at all. Although I missed a meal before landing, I did get the much talked about Bibimbap dish. Yum.

Once we landed, we headed through the terminal towards the Customs inspection and baggage claim. What a surprise, I was the first one outside. While I was waiting for the other to come outside and absorbing the LAX atmosphere I notice there were crows flying around! I didn't know there were crows in LA. just like Japan.
Once the other members were outside, we waited for a mini-van type taxi, which we had to request, that would take us to MOONEYES in Santa Fe Springs. We arrived at MOONEYES in what seemed like no time. It was still early, about 8-9AM. Chico and everyone was already hard at work loading the trailer with cargo, preparing the dually, the Ford pickup, the Chevy hauler and MOONEYES Dragster.

At that point, I was sent off to the DMV. On the way, look at what we have here! It's Jack in the Box! Oh man how I miss Jack's grub! It's the simple things, like greasy burgers and house dressing on curly fries that I miss most about the US. Made a note to hit Jack in the Box on the way back to the Shop.

Goshu dropped me off about 11AM so I could renew my California Driver's License. It's been expired for several years since I've been in Japan and I never had a chance to renew it. The friendly people at the DMV informed me that as long as I'm still in the system, they can verify that I had a previous DL. If not, I would have to start from scratch which meant I would not be able to get one since I only had this one day only. It was now or never as they say... Again, Lady Luck on my side, I was still in the system. YES! Updated my address, filled in the forms, paid the fee and took the tests. Two tests because one was for cars and the other for motorcycles. Piece of cake... Doh, multiple choices... How does anyone know the what the weight of vehicle X, that stops in Y feet while going Z mph is? Who measures the distance of their parallel parked car tires to the curb?? Why do they have choices like, "Brake Hard", "Lean Back", or "Swerve Away" to questions like, "How do you avoid a collision taking place in front of you? Where's the "All of the Above" or "Depends on Situation". Alright, so I failed the m/c test about three times but I still made it through at the end. Of course, in between was a few hours of old fashioned study hall. They have the study booklets for both right there at the counter. Cover to cover, I made sure I read what they had, just to see if the booklets had any typos, you know. After passing the tests, the DMV system was down and they couldn't issue any paper-permits! No problem, I'll have to get the permit tomorrow. The main thing, Driver's License GET! All in all, it took until about 5PM just as they were lowering the US flag outside to end the day. I called Goshu and moments later he zipped around the corner in the HHR, picked me up and we headed back to the shop. No time for Jack's, it'll have to wait.

We all continued into the night getting all the last minute things loaded up for tomorrow. It was about 8PM when Chico called it a day. Wow, we actually finished earlier than I would have imagined. We arranged for tomorrow's meeting time here at the Shop, then headed for our motel. We stayed at a motel about 10-15 minutes away from MOONEYES. Got to the motel, checked in and everything before 9PM.

The next morning we headed back to the Shop. From there, any last minute preparations that needed to be done was done. Chico and Hasegawa had already left to the Show area.

Yoshi drove the dually and trailer, Goshu drove the Ford Pickup and I got to drive the HHR! Having no idea where I was going I tried to use my defensive driving skills I had been taught so long ago but it seems to bother many drivers, so I just went with the flow. We got to Irwindale Speedway in no time.
The main tent was already in place and the band was tuning on the stage. Today was setup day so we would spend the entire day getting ready for the big show tomorrow. Again, time seemed to fly by and next thing we knew it was getting dark and we were ready!
Everything was in place although we decided to hold offon putting products out because there was a threat of rain. Tomorrow, we would arrive at 4AM to complete setup and preparations. It was a bright night with no clouds and a full moon hanging right next to the bright Irwindale sign announcing the show. What a great sight to see. Everyone was in high spirits even after a long day of unloading. Goshu, Yoshi, Hasegawa, Chico and Shige pose for one final photo to end the night.
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