Hooniverse is 10 years old now, which is pretty significant. Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating my 23 lap around the sun, meaning this website has been around for more than a third of my life. When I discovered Hooniverse for the first time, it was more than likely through a post on Jalopnik. Jeff was driving some awesome car down some road in Southern California telling us how awesome it was.
The aircraft phase
I was going to the California Maritime Academy at that time studying mechanical engineering. Hint: it’s not what I’m doing today, but I thought it would get me closer to racing, something I’d wanted to do my whole life. When the site began, racing was not something on my mind. I was in my aircraft phase. I was coming up on my 13th birthday, and my parents brought me out to wine country after going to a couple air shows earlier that summer. My present that year was an introduction flight for rotor-wing aircraft. To this day, it’s one of the greatest experiences of my life. Two hours of ground school and about an hour of actual flight had me hooked.
Over the next four years during high school, I focused mainly on aircraft and was a part of the United States Air Force Auxiliary’s Civil Air Patrol, and attending an engineering pathway high school. I thought I had it all figured out, I would get through high school, find a nice engineering school, graduate and get into the field designing aircraft engines. I set up a senior project which got the attention of some folks over at Rolls-Royce during my senior year of high school. The project was a single-piece printable turbine engine. I sent an email to the company to see if it would work.
The other Rolls Royce
A couple weeks later I got an email from the Director of NASA programs and Advanced System Studies. He wanted to have a chat about our project and was quite impressed. He did inform us later on that it wouldn’t work out quite like we hoped, because the compressor as a single stage wouldn’t make much pressure. The whole project had me psyched. But by that time I had been starting to watch Top Gear and was getting back into cars and motorsports. My focus began to shift from aircraft to cars. Still, I went into engineering school thinking it was going to be cake. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While I was still getting into cars during high school, I tried to avoid getting my license for as long as possible. Something inside me knew I am not responsible enough to have a car. Eventually, I gave in just so I didn’t have to get rides to school and I inherited my grandmother’s 1998 Buick Regal LS. What a great first car.
My first go at college
I fell on my face my first semester and a couple semesters later. It was a major crisis for me, and not being able to leave campus and escape was hard. There was one weekend though where the car stayed with me. I was set to see a concert with a close friend about 60 miles from campus in Sacramento. When I got to Sacramento I realized the tickets were back in the dorm. I made it back home in a hurry to say the least and on my way back got popped for doing over 100mph. That, understandably, caused me to lose driving permissions for some time.
The carspotting phase
Luckily, I had friends, friends with cars. The kind that would take you to cars & coffee events, or up the road to Sonoma Raceway for track days. When I wasn’t studying on the weekends, I was trying to find my way to an event. Car spotting was just getting popular and we were out trying to get exclusive shots of owners cars. We formed relationships with the owners and tried to get reposted by the most famous Instagram accounts. One day, back at home with the parents on break watching Top Gear, my father looked over and said, “Hey boy, why don’t you do that for a living?” It hadn’t struck me that those were actual jobs until then. I considered it for months, did my research, and figured out if it was really possible; it seemed like it was, but I still had to get my degree.
Engineering school wasn’t a place I wanted to be. I wanted to be trackside, taking photos, telling stories and being around all of the latest and some of the greatest cars. We had been to Car Week a couple times at that point and I was in a fully blown obsession. One day, a friend and I met up with my parents at the only Cars and Coffee San Francisco ever held at the Naval Air Station in Alameda. I told my mother that day that I wasn’t going to be an engineer. A couple months later I told my father, withdrew from my classes and left. The first person in my family to go to school and I dropped out.
The second go at college
I had a plan, and a job working at a golf course. Then I discovered that pesky little SAAB. There’s something about a $500 car I just have a hard time saying no to. It had a blown head gasket, a couple hundred thousand miles, and bad paint work. But it was cool, and it was a passion project. I figured I could work on it while going to community College at the school’s auto department. Not only did it help me learn about working on cars, but it gave me something to look forward to.
That SAAB brought me out of the deep depression that stemmed from the massive feeling of being a failure. It later led to some of its own, but that’s for another story. Around this time, I had been to enough events at Sonoma Raceway to know most of the people that would be at the track. I was still on the wrong side of the fences, until one day I got an invite to a photo meeting. Boom! Press Pass. The rest is history.
I’ve met some amazing people since then who introduced me to Jeff and his cohort of amazing writers, friends and enthusiasts. I now have my Associate’s degree in Journalism and Automotive Technology along with some others. I’m now on my way to a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Long Beach State University, trying to stay away from the temptation of stability found in PR, while also working in advertising.
If you had told me 10 years ago where I would be, like so many others I would have called you crazy. I don’t know where all this will take me. Hopefully, I will move on to bigger and better opportunities like so many of this site’s alumni. Regardless, I am so proud to share bylines with all of you. Let’s have another great decade!