January was a very mellow month for Nacho Mama. Lots of napping, Netflix binging, making soup, sewing, and crafting. The way life should be...at least some of the time! Most of the summer I can do none of those things, so I relish this time of year, even with the cold. I'm broke in January, so it's a good time to hibernate. Soon enough I will be back to the grind, so January was a month of rest & relaxation.
Now that Chedr was closed down for the winter, I finally got to enjoy some time off. I did some painting, some sewing, crafting, holiday cooking, and worked to get all my Christmas presents made and wrapped before I hit the road to Florida. One of the reasons I visit Florida every year is because it's my second hometown. I spent ages 14-30 living in Jacksonville,...high school, college, and my 20's...so I have a lot of friends and family still in Florida (some spread out now).
December 16 I hit the road, stopping in Atlanta to visit briefly with my brother Ryan and his wife Taryn. Traffic was heavy driving down, so I didn't even get in til after 9. We had some good Thai takeout, and caught up until after midnight. The next day I had to go pick up a new batch of Nacho Mama's t-shirts and hoodies that had just been printed, and then I spent an hour or so at IKEA. Had to use of my gift card from the previous Christmas...and I've been needing an IKEA fix, so it was a necessity. After Ikea, I went to say goodbye to my brother down at his studio, and then I hit the road for my next destination.
Dec 17. The next place I was headed was Blufton, South Carolina to visit with my friend Lewie Lee. Lewie is one of my oldest, dearest friends from Jacksonville who plays a mean harmonica, loves his whiskey, and has an infectious laugh. We always have a good time when we get together. I only stayed the one night, and since he had to work the next day, I continued my journey. Our visit was short and sweet, but since I hadn't seen in him in several years, I had to make the detour.
Dec 18 The next day, which was a Friday, I stopped in Fernandina to visit with mama Brenda for a bit. Brenda is Groovy's mom (my best friend who passed away a few years ago) and so it was really good to catch up and see her cute new house. Groovy's family is like family to me, and it helps keep her memory alive for all of us when we have a chance to visit. Especially now that we've had time to grieve and it's not such a sad event for us to get together. Don't get me wrong...there are still teary moments for us, just not as many, and we can reminisce without always crying. I didn't have a chance to see the rest of the family on Friday, but I was returning on Sunday.
Next I headed to Jacksonville to spend the weekend with my old school BFF, Audra. I hadn't gotten to see Audra in 3-4 years, so it was a much needed reunion. We started the weekend Friday night having a cookout at Christopher's house, (Audra's nephew) whom I hadn't seen since he was 12. It was a bit surreal, because I used to babysit this kid, and here he was at 25 drinking a beer with us and cooking me some of the best fresh tuna steak I had ever had. Before I had nieces and nephews, Christopher was like my first nephew. I sure loved that kid, and so even though I haven't known him for the latter part of his life, I knew him well for the first years. Now that he's an adult, he's totally into the same things I was at his age....jam bands, music fests, camping....hippie shit. Gotta love the way of the universe!
Friday night we headed out to Audra's house out in Fleming Island, and there I stayed until Sunday morning. Such a cool house, with an awesome outdoor space. They built a huge fireplace and waterfall that looked out over the woods, and with the chilly temperatures that weekend, it was a perfect outdoor retreat. I spent most of my time outside by the fireplace. Saturday night we had some fresh steamed Florida shrimp....so so good! After Friday nights yummy grilled tuna steak, the shrimp on Saturday was definitely a bonus treat. Saturday I got to hang out with Audra's oldest girl, French braiding her hair and taking her shopping. That was special because I havent really gotten to know her kids much over the years, and her oldest is 12. The other girls were at their Grandmas for the weekend, so I only got to see them briefly, which is usually the case when I've been in town. All in all, it was a good chill weekend with an old friend.
December 20 Sunday I got up early, and headed back to Fernandina to visit with Brenda. It's only about a 45 minute drive, so I decided to take the long scenic route along A1A and Hecksker Drive. I stopped at Big Talbot State Park along the way, which is one of my favorite places in Jacksonville, or anywhere for that matter. It's one of the few places that you can go to the beach and have the whole place to yourself. The coast has become really eroded, so a lot of the beach is inaccessible, but after hiking through the woods for a good half a mile, you are able to find path that can access the beach and isn't too steep. You are then rewarded by a totally surreal and beautiful landscape of overturned sunbleached trees, with roots exposed along he beach. Many a photographer have made a name for themselves from Big Talbot photo shoots. If you are ever in the area, I strongly suggest making the trip to Big Talbot. It's super close to Amelia Island / Fenandina , which is also a must stop along any visit to north Florida. It's got a cute and quaint downtown area right on the waterfront, and has a laid back island vibe. Shrimp Capitol too! Anyway, so once I got to Fernandina I spent the day with Brenda...eating lunch with Shanna, Michelle's sister, then heading to the beach at Fort Clinch to visit the spot where the family scattered Michelle's ashes. In the afternoon, we visited with Trey, Michelle's brother, who was about to head back to Costa Rica. We ended the day chillin in Brenda's backyard around the fire pit roasting vegan marshmallows. Perfect lazy Sunday.
December 21. Monday I left Fernandina and headed to Orlando to visit another BFF, Joyce. Since she was working, I only got to visit with her later in the evening. Both her kids were in town, so it was good to see them too....so crazy that they are all grown up and adults now. Seems like yesterday that they were so little. My visit was short but sweet, a few good hours of seeing your best friend who you only see maybe once a year is always worth the effort. Was supposed to meet up with Joyce again after Christmas, but she wasn't able to make it, so I'm glad we had at least a short visit.
The rest of my trip was spending it with family and friends in Clermont and St. Pete. I could go on and on, but this has gotten a bit long winded, so I will just say that seeing my Florida family..my dad, stepmom, brothers, sister, nieces and nephews...is always precious to me and every moment counts. Holiday meals, traditions, and now holiday karaoke....make each Christmas special. I ended the trip spending my last day with another BFF Sharon, and my brother Jason. We had a great day at the Dali Museum, then spent the afternoon visiting with friends playing banjo, games, etc...then ended the evening seeing Uncle John's Band play live in downtown St. Pete.
So that was the basics of my December! Hope you all got to spend quality time with those you love as well.
November 14 Fall Festival @ Hamilton Town Center
This festival had all kinds of live music, local vendors, food trucks, an ice skating rink, a visit from Santa, and ended with fireworks. Super busy festival, lots of fun! A bit stressful though because just as I was about to get parked for the event, Chedr got stuck in first gear, and I couldn't move the gear shift. So we began the event with several people pushing Chedr into the parking space. Never a good way to start any event, but shit happens! Got to improvise, adapt, and overcome. I had customers lined up immediately, so I had to just get to work and deal with the mechanical issues later. Finally I had a few minutes to make some calls, and since I couldn't get ahold of Jeremy, I called Brian. Brian is the previous owner of Chedr, who has become a good friend of mine in the last three years. He is the one who made Chedr into a food truck, building the inside up, while Jeremy did the mechanical restoration. So even though he's not a mechanic, he knows how to fix some basic things, and has come to my rescue more times than I can count. This is exactly what he did on this day, even though he wasn't sure he could fix the stuck gears...he still came out to where I was to take a look at it. Luckily, the same thing had happened once before to him, and he watched Jeremy jiggle the gears from under the truck...which is what he did this time and hallelujah, it worked and he got the gear shift unstuck. Whew! I still need to have Jeremy take a look at it, so I'm just being careful for now. Plus we are near the end of the season....
November 19 & 20 National Catholic Youth Conference @ Georgia St
This was my last event of the season. It was super busy, with tons of teenagers wearing a variety of crazy hats. The third day of the event it snowed for the first time of the year, so I ended up canceling. It was getting colder, so it was time to winterize Chedr before it got too late. Don't want water freezing in my pipes and tanks especially.
October is when food truck season starts to wind down. October 1st was the last Statehouse Market of the season, and October 2 was the last First Friday Food Truck Fest of the season. October 3 I went back out to DePauw for a late night catering gig...the Student Association pays food trucks to come in from Indy and serve up free food to the students staggering around campus drunk...trying to get some food in them to help sober them up maybe. I think it's a cool perk for the students, and of course I always appreciate getting paid to hand out free food...because everyone loves you for it!
October 22 Saw the return of Chedr to Fountain Square for the Run317 event benefitting Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. There was a huge turn out for the race and the after-party where there was a DJ spinning and Sun King beer was flowing. I love being able to support local community projects, which is why I continue to participate every year.
I also participated in several Food Truck Friday's on Georgia Street in the month of October. Since the weather stayed pretty mild, we had decent crowds. Last year my truck was in the shop for a few weeks in October, and then it started snowing by Halloween, so my season ended earlier last year than it did this year. Just that extra month makes all the difference when trying to survive the winter with no income.
September 10 Zionsville Fall Festival @ Leonard Park
Back in Zionsville for their last big event of the year, the annual Fall Festival. This was my first year at the event since they typically don't have food trucks. I'm going to say it again...Zionsville loves Nacho Mama's Food Truck! So I got included this year, and should be returning for years to come. The festival featured all kinds of carnival rides, food vendors, arts & crafts vendors, live music in the evening, and a cute little train that took kids all around the park all day. It was so busy that I ran out of food by early evening. As I was leaving I started to have trouble with Chedr, with him sputtering and blowing black smoke at the crowd. Not how I wanted to end the day! Needless to say, Chedr was totally on the fritz and HAD to go into the shop ASAP, which is why I wasn't able to return for the second day of the fest. I barely made it home with Chedr sputtering the whole way, stalling at every stoplight.
So basically I was out of commission for about 10 days, and here's why.
First of all, I needed some major work done. My mechanic Jeremy needed a good 4-5 days to rebuild my carburetor, adjust the timing, the idle, clean up my engine wiring, adjust my brakes, etc. He was already booked up, and took a few days to get working on it. So even though having to be patient costs me $, such is the life of owning a food truck. Shit happens, and you have to take care of it, and get the job done right, which is why I only trust Jeremy to do the majority of the work for me. His specialty is classic cars, Chevy in particular, and has done all of the major restorative mechanical work on Chedr since the beginning. Not many people can work on vintage vehicles....they take a lot of constant tweaking, and in this case since it's my livelihood, I truly trust only Jeremy. The problem is he owns his own business too, and isn't working for me....so he isn't always available exactly when I need him, which is understandable. It just sucks for me when I'm in a bind and need work done to the truck. Over the years he has always come to my rescue if I was truly stuck somewhere, or come to my home and done work when I couldn't move the truck for whatever reason...so he's been good to me, which is why I remain loyal.
I will say that after Jeremy made all the adjustments and got the carburetor rebuilt (which we had been putting off for months) Chedr was running like a dream.
So September was my big month of truck repairs.
August 1 Streetdance @ Main St, Zionsville
This event is held every year the first Saturday in August, and features a big stage with local favorites like the Polka Boys. They close off Main St, and have the stage at one end, the food trucks and local restaurant booths at the other end of Main, and tables and a big dance area set up in the middle. So this event is all about eating, drinking, and being merry. So many people in the community come out to support this event that the street gets almost impassable...kind of like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, if you've ever had that experience. Not a good place to be if you are claustrophobic or don't enjoy crowds. Gypsy Moon did this event with me as well, so we had fun after we sold out of food. This event was the same night as GenCon, and yes it was worth it to miss.
August 23 Catering @ Depauw University
There are several catering events that I do each year at DePauw, and the one in August is at their Nature Center, which is several miles off campus. They transport the students in to show what the Center has to offer, so they lure them in with free food, drink, and games. This year I served almost 250 walking tacos in a two hour period. One of the other trucks was serving Bubble Tea, so I got to try that for the first time. I got a peach mango bubble tea that was super yummy.
July 3 & 4 Food Truck Fest @ Old National Centre
This year July 4th fell on Saturday, so we had two consecutive days of food truck fests at Old National. We had First Friday Food Truck Fest on Friday, and then another fest on Saturday for the Independence Day celebration and the fireworks. It was a fun weekend, but the headliner this year...Henry Lee Summer...was a bit of a disappointment after last year's Rusted Root performance. Last year totally rocked, whereas this year was just ok. Not as big of a crowd as last year either, but that probably had to do with so many other events going on downtown. We had fun anyway since friends and family were hanging out.
July 11 Indy Crit @ Circle on Meridian
Indy Crit is a series of bicycle races that uses the streets of downtown Indy as it's track or course. This year we were set up along the Circle, and luckily I got a free BMX stunt show that set up right in front of my truck, so as I worked I got to see these guys do all kinds of crazy tricks, and get crazy air off the ramps. I ended up feeding most of the pro riders...and got to chat with them a bit. That's one of the few perks of owning and operating a food truck...you get to do fun events and meet people you might not normally interact with.
July 23 Hauler Parade @ Main St, Speedway
One of the few events I do in Speedway every year is the Hauler Parade, which is always the Thursday prior to the Brickyard 400. They block off Main St, have a festival with kids activites, live music, food trucks, and wait for the big semi "haulers" that parade the NASCAR teams into the race track. All the locals come out for the hooplah, and it's a fun event where my neighbors can eat off my truck...which doesn't happen often. Wish there were more events to do in Speedway!