I'll make two versions of this post, depending on how interested a reader may be. First, the short version:
The Good- There are some really pretty girls that are NASCAR fans. You wouldn't expect that considering the stereotypical "average" racing fan, but take my word on it. :)
The Bad- An 80% chance of rain. All weekend long.
The Ugly- Inept police officers (and the backup they eventually were forced to call in). Damn idiots kept contradicting one another and stressing us out nearly to the point of coming home. To the point that the Troopers and Sheriffs and Rent-A-Cops were all pointing fingers at each other, saying that the others had no clue what they were doing.
And the longer one:
Well, Friday we packed. Nuthin' much to talk about there, except that every year we say we'll only take what we need to survive, and every year the bed of the minitruck gets fuller and fuller. We woke up real early on Saturday, and kind of took our time getting up there. The drive was cake...instead of taking the interstates the whole way, we slipped down the quiet backroads to take the most direct path, so it was a real peaceful drive. The only real memorable thing from that trip, other than it being quiet and relaxing, was passing through one of the small Mayberry-like towns and me noticeing that they had a Museum of Fine Art. And if that were not humorous enough on it's own, the sign out front had "Welcome Race Fans" as it's message of the day. *chuckles* Anyways, we didn't run into any traffic at all. In fact, we pulled into the McDondald's parking lot just off of Speedway Boulevard when the Saturday Busch race was only 13 laps in. Our timing was perfect; with everyone in the grandstands for that, we slipped right up to the gate with no trouble whatsoever.
Until we got to the gate, that is.
Apparently, the "Free Camping", well...isn't. We pull up to go search for a space while we have a few hour's head start, but the police won't let us in. Because we don't have "a sticker". We've been going to this race for 15 years now, and there's never been anything like that before, yet the officer spoke down to us as if we were complete and total idiots. So, naturally, we ask him for a sticker. He doesn't have any. We ask where to get them. He doesn't know. We ask him where we are supposed to go, then, to camp out for the night. He doesn't care, as long as it's not that one lot that he was partolling.
We try to go to another gate, and Dad does the "shuck and jive" thing to no avail. We go to the last of the gates to this location, and meet up with the most inept officer I could imagine outside of Barney Fife. He had a shit-eating grin on his face, almost as if he was enjoying his job. Every answer was a sheerfully sarcastic "Nope!" that would have made me put him flat on his back if not for the gun he had on his hip of the star on his chest. But mostly the gun. We ask him to get into the campgrounds and was denied. We asked for a sticker, and was denied. We asked if we could park on the side of the road (like so many others), and was told that we'd be towed for abandoning a vehicle. We asked to park in the parking lot, and he said that it was reserved for Daytime Parking...of course, all the Busch fans were already watching the race, and they were "saving" it for the people coming to see the Sunday Nextel Cup race. Us. But since they were reserving the spot for us, we couldn't park there. So, we flat out asked him where are we supposed to go. He asked us where we came from, expecting us to go all the way back home only to wake up at midnight and pull a 24 hour marathon round-trip the next day. In his own, professional, eloquent words, we were "stuck like chuck". In any case, we wasn't about to go home just because he didn't know where we were supposed to be, and I know the RV behind us from Ontario, CANADA damn sure wasn't.
So, we drive around, and one of the troopers tells us that we actually can park in the parking lot, provided that we have race tickets for tomorrow. Not a problem. I kind of assumed he was wrong, but it was enough validation for me. We drive around and see the sign that has two messages and two arrows pointing to either side of a gravel, dividing road. To the left, the front half of the lot said specifically "No Overnight Parking." The right side, towards the back half of the field said "Parking Only - No Camping." We didn't have our grill or our tent or anything else outside of a pair of folding chairs, so that's all we needed. Parking. Overnight. Dad's frustrated as hell by this point, and I show him the sign, make my case, and talk him into pulling up between half a dozen semis parked very far away from the road. I'm talking trucks and trailers, including one fully-loaded car hauler. My theory was that they're already here, so they likely got permission to park their rigs in the open field. Not like they could possibly have maneuvered them in the narrow dirt maze of the camping area. We could either hide behind them in out little S-10 minitruck, behind one row of trucks and between two others, or at least blend in with that group in general. Also, I'd like to see them try and tow the fully loaded car hauler off somewhere...
I'm sure you know where this is going already. Yeah, I was wrong, but in my mind I was the least wrong given the possible choices at hand. And I was wrong in a way that likely the officers would just get fed up and make an excuse for us. But, I was wrong...I'll get to that in a bit.
We went to stretch our legs, rent our scanners and headsets, and buy souvineers while Trailer City is more or less vacant. Very awesome. I didn't get the Black #8 Tribute shirt I kind of wanted, cause I bought a new Chevy Racing hat (which I've actually been needing) and a long-sleeved white Earnhardt shirt to help keep my absurdly fair skin from being burninated. I also had to buy another travel alarm clock at the truck stop because ours didn't survive since last we used it 364 days earlier, though that was hardly a souvineer. The whole while, I was ragging Dad on liking Tony Steward for some reason...we're both Dale fans, obviously, but we tend to differ on our second, third, and favorite drivers further back. For some reason, despite him never winning ag 'Dega before, I just knew that it was his time, and was going to have to rag him the entire ride home. Might as well get started early.
We looked at some of the demo cars, the cutaway racecars, and all of the other things you'd expect at a NASCAR track during the daytime. A nice little trip, but by the time we were done we were both ready to sit down. We kick back, talk amongst ourselves and several of the folks we run into along the way, and just hang out for a while before deciding to dine on our makeshift meal of root beer and pork rinds. Just as soon as I popped the top to my Barqs and Dad was debating whether he wanted Cracker Jacks or trail mix, we hear some guy hollering out "Y'all want some food?"
Now, NASCAR races are awesome becase I've never seen so many people automatially treat each other like good friends. Complete strangers walk up to one another there and talk as if they'd known each other all their lives. We had already had our share of that, talking to everyone from UGA students cutting class to old folks showing up in their new RV for their first race ever. But it turns out that these were some of the truckers from a couple of rigs down, and like I've always said, Truckers are some of the absolute best people you could ever hope to know. These in particular had come from the Southwest primarily, and were grilling some burgers and asked if we wanted one. We politely declined, but they insisted, claiming that they were tired of leftovers and would just throw them out and basically demanding that we join them for dinner in an example of true Southern Hospitality. We climb through the empty car hauler and see that they don't just have a few burgers...they're grilling BBQ chicken breast and burgers and dogs and they had tater salad and slaw and homemade peanut butter cookie bars and literally an entire pickup bed full of various things to eat. And just as soon as we built a burger and began to chow down, another set of truckers from Chicago showed up and asked if anyone there drank beer. It was perhaps the stupidest question ever asked at a NASCAR race, but no one was going to say that to the guy that had two buddies dragging large coolers behind them, claiming that they had Coors and Bud and Miller, but they only drank Coors and didn't want the other to go to waste. They mainly were more interested in drinking their whiskey, not really caring much about the beers at all, but even so they offered that to us as well in case anyone wanted a few shots.
I...kind of forgot what we ended up doing after we left them and made our way back to our own truck. We just kind of hung out for a while, till it started getting dark and the police showed up. Some middle-aged Rent A Cop pulled up on his ATV and tried to clear the lot. Well, him and two buddies of his. But all the truckers (and us, natch) all kind of surrounded them, made our case, pointed to the sign that suggests that we could stay here, and so on. We even told him about the State Trooper that said that it was okay, and his response to that was "The Troopers are idiots. He didn't know what he was talking about, and you shouldn't have listened to him." I told him that I like to listen to people with guns, and rarely call them idiots and blatantly disreguard them. Dad chimed in and asked how we didn't know the next guy wasn't going to say the same thing about him. I then asked him if the next time a State Trooper gave us a direct order of what to or not to do, did he seriously want me to tell him that he was an idiot and we didn't have to listen to him, and then ignore him completely?
Things continued along this path for a while. We were in the right, with the sign behind us blatantly saying we could stay, combined with at least one officer's verbal permission. And there was no way those rigs would be able to pull out in the still bumper-to-bumper traffic if they tried. We talked him down into giving us till midnight to wait and see if the traffic died down, and if at 12:01am it was still too dense to leave, then technically that's race day and we're just early. But just as soon as we got our way, his superior officer bitched him out over his radio and demanded that the entire lot be cleared, OR ELSE. A tow truck big enough to force the rigs was on it's way and would drag them away by force if need be. One of the other truckers stepped up and said, look man, I've been sitting here drinking since ten o'clock this morning. I can't drive. I'm a trucker, and make my living with my license. If I get behind the wheel, I'm out of a job. I simply can. not. drive. But the Rent A Cop even forced him to leave, which if it were me I'd have his badge for that one. I didn't stick around much later to see what was up...the Canadians were getting pissed, and even though the big and burly truckers were only arguing verbally, it was enough to call for backup. Before I knew it, a half-dozen squad cars pulled in around us, and instead of the short, middle-aged mustached guy talking, a six-foot-twelve, 300+ pound deputy decided to take over. Since we really didn't have any options left, that little grey truck scooted on out of there before they could say anything to us. ^_^;
We pulled out into the "parade" traffic, moving at about five miles an hour as we drove through the drunken mob. As many times as I've been a part of the parade as a member (and sometimes coordinator) of that mob, I never expected to actually be IN the parade quite like that. Eventually, we ended up finding a small sign that said "Overnight Parking - Absolutely No Camping". A little confusing, as it can be a fairly thin line between overnight parking and camping, when one parks a pickup and then sets up folding chairs and a cooler and such. But, we weren't roping off an area or starting campfires or pitching tents or anything like that, and just to be safe we didn't pull out any of our gear. The place was a wreck...looked like a section of chain link fence had gotten torn down and cars just kind of were shoved there for lack of a better place to do. If not for the soldier out front - a tanker that was about the only nice person the entire weekend that I saw directing traffic - I'd never have guessed otherwise. The grass and weeds were at least knee deep, and the muddy, uneven ground was so torn up that we were worried about being able to pull into and out of those ruts in Dad's little minitruck even without it raining. But we parked, walked to the parade route, and that's a story for another day. Long story
We woke up late Sunday morning, and I got the same reactions I usually get when I came out of my "coffin". Dad's got the hard tanneau cover over the bed of his truck, you see. I had an air mattress in one corner, with all the other space packed tight with supplies. It being a short wheelbase stepside S-10 model pickup, my feet touched one end of the bed and I only had a few inches' clearance between my head and the closed tailgate. With the cover closed, it only barely missed touching my nose, and I was forced to sleep flat on my back without moving the entire time (usually with only my head turned to one side). Not the most pleasant of sleeping arrangements, but it's more comfortable than one would expect. Partly due to boredom and partly as a joke, I checked some LJ posts and said "hey" to someone on AIM while trapped not unlike a kidnapping victim, but I kept it very short and sweet. My hand was only barely able to reach my Dangerphone, and I was reading it from around my hip. Thank goodness for the huge, lit screen and keyboard. It's rather hard to type with one finger, as well, but I digress. I get up in the morning, wriggling my hands above my head and forcing the lock open from the inside. Anywhere else in the country, that freaks people out to no end. Especially half-drunk people whose wits are not entirely about them. But at Talladega, I am proclaimed a genius for thinking of such an efficient yet comfortable way to spend the night entirely out of the elements. Anyone passing by always makes a point of telling me that I've got it made in my cozy little home away from homelessness. *chuckles*
Unfortunately, that's about all there is to say about Sunday at the track. We already had souvineers and scanners, so we went straight to the track. On the way, we saw the Grand Marshall, Ron "Tater Salad" White, doing a stand-up routine so we stopped and caught that, which was as funny as hell. We sat down next to a recently retired couple, who seemed really excited to be there, having never been to a race before. We warned them they were gonna be hooked. They were cool folks, though, and it was cool to hear that of all the tracks they could have gone to, they drove halfway across the country to Talladega, Alabama to see ours.
The drivers were introduced, the anthem played, the bombers did their fly-by, the NASCAR officials radioed in the one-to-go signal, the drivers came around turn three, everyone was getting goosebumps...and then it started raining on that side of the track. (And yes, this track is big enough to have different weather patterns at each of it's turns...the INFIELD itself is over 1200+ acres!) It eventually rained on us as well, but not too badly and no lighning that would have forced us to clear the grandstands. It faded out, and they began to dry the track. That takes two hours, so we just sat there for a while. I wasn't about to pull my poncho off, figuring that it was still cloudy and it made for a damn nice windbreaker. You'd be surprised how cold it was with a 30mph wind whipping about. Smart move on my part, because it began sprinkling again, and they began drying the track again. And just as they were about to finish, it sprinkled again...not hard, but it built up enough on the track for them to need to dry it once more. They called the race at lap 0, announcing that it'll be postponed a day because of the rain. Parking lots open at 5am again, gates open at 8am, and the race (hopefully) gets underway at 11am. We walked back to the parking lot in complete sunshine, as it had already began to clear up. Irony, much?
Between everything that had been going on, Dad was so annoyed that he was just ready to come home. He almost did the night before, until we spied that small, out-of-the-way nook to park in. But, with the way they were directing traffic, we would not be able to make it there again and even if we did, with the rain his truck likely could not get in and out of that bog. The night before, we woke up before dawn to move back to the day parking lot we were forced out of, waiting beside the gate when they came to unlock it at 5am. That allows us to slip out before anyone else was even able to get to their cars. Instead of fighting traffic and traffic cops to search for another campground that we wouldn't be allowed into like the night before, or risk getting booted from the day parking lot like the night before, I come up with the bright idea to spend the night at the truck stop. I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice, despite what the sign and one officer said. And we had the advantage of leaving early, so we could slip in there before anyone else could even make it to Speedway Boulevard. At worst, we get a hot meal instead of eating Cracker Jacks while we wait for traffic to clear and start prowling the streets looking for camping.
(And before anyone asks why we didn't look for a hotel? There are thousands of NASCAR teams and officials that also needed a place to stay. Being the first to know of the race being called, the team owners called in reservations for 50, immediately booking every hotel to at least Birmingham. During "The Great Wash-Out" several years back, we had to go almost to the Georgia line before we could find anything, and that was a $175 a night honeymoon suite...heh.)
That turned out to be one damn good call, so much so that we may deliberately do that again in the future. We parked, ate a steak dinner at the 24-hour diner, had bathrooms with running water, hung out with even more awesome truckers in the back lot, checked out the non-licensed souvineer tents in the parking lot, gassed up the truck, and had it pretty damn easy. They also had Silent Scope and a half-dozen other arcade games to fool around with, and a small lounge for the truckers...though I didn't want to infringe on their space like that just to watch TV. I caught the evening news on during dinner, and that was enough.
We did the 5am parking lot shuffle again, to find that after all that fuss, the bastards never bothered to clear the lot the night before. Not like Saturday night/Sunday morning, where there was still a small handful of trucks still left out there, but half the lot remained, including several cars we recognized as neighbors from the day before. Of course, there was no way of knowing, every sign pointed to them clearing the lot, and we still slipped into the exact same space as before but had a full stomach and full tank of gas this time around so we still came out ahead. But it was aggravating nonetheless, given the previous night's frustrations about them saving those spots for us but not allowing us to park there. It seems that the workers were paid up through Sunday night, and nobody ever bothered to do anything after the race cleared out that evening. Hell, we didn't even see any police officers directing traffic till at least nine the next morning...
We spend the early hours watching and laughing as one cop parked someone in a spot, only to have a second force him to move just as soon as he unbuckled his seat belts, shut off the engine, and stepped out of the truck. Almost as funny was wondering why the white pickup was okay where he was parked, but the space immediately beside him was supposedly off-limits and kept getting cleared. Didn't seem to be anything special or abnormal about it, and several people saw it and attempted to park there, but they always cleared them off up until this one white truck that was parked on that same row. *shrugs*
We got to our seats, and so did 95% of the other folks from Sunday. Takes quite a bit to send those folks home packin'. Armed with three sets of spare batteries, having picked up some new ones at the trailer on the way in because Sunday's were almost dead, we sat back and listened to the normally professional-sounding race announcers talking about what they did with their extra day in Talladega. Very much craziness, apparently. I was busting out laughing, and only my father beside me had any idea as to why. *grins* The race itself was a really good one, not counting the fact that every single one of my drivers got pwned. And despite this being a post about the race, the race is what I apparently feel the least like talkin' about. Most anyone interested already saw it on TV, after all. But here's the synopsis:
- Dale Jr. wrecked.
- Twice. (once was a spinout coming off of turn three, the other was a blown engine that gave him the DNF)
- Truex Jr. wrecked.
- Mikey wrecked.
- Harvick wrecked.
- Bobby wrecked.
- Kasey Kahne wrecked.
At the end, it was almost like the FBI's Most Wanted, all the assholes that I couldn't stand lined up one after another. Johnson. Smoke. Gordon. Busch (one of them, at least). I wasn't too happy with ANY of the cars left at the end, though it was a fun race to watch. I had predicted that Tony wins it this time (finally), and since Dad likes him and I very much don't, I had already been ragging him about how I'd continue to rag him for the next five or so hours on the way home. He finished second, though, with Jimmy winning his first race with his crew chief back in his pits. Meh. Kind of a letdown, though it was hillarious finally seeing someone (the #5 Busch, whichever one that is, Kurt or Kyle) getting more boos than Jeff Gordon. And it was funny hearing people screaming out that Busch stucks and that Busch is such an bastard/asshole/evil-son-of-a-bitch, and them not talking about Dubya. *chuckles*
The ride back was uneventful. And I pretty much could leave it at that description - we perfected our exit strategy, and know where to park, what lane to get in, and which highways to take to avoid almost all of the race-day traffic. Other than a wreck just outside of Montgomery, there wasn't a hitch. Once we pulled off I-65 in Scaryland, though, Dad had the bright idea of picking up some food to take home, keeping Mom from having to cook supper at almost nine at night. And he went to one of the fancy, expensive, sit-down places too. I dunno why, cause I was up for either chowing down on a burger in Montgomery or just waiting till we got home to eat on the cheap. Though the latter is exactly what we ended up doing, as the dumbass waitress accidentally forgot all of our side dishes. And forgot to charge us for anything except those side dishes. So, we ended up with a feast that only cost $5 or so. Didn't even realize it till we were gathering the receipts to see how badly we melted the plastic of our charge cards over the course of the now three-day weekend. Lord, I love stupid people on the rare occasions that their stupidity works in our favor. XD
Rekcon that's about it. Took me enough words to record it, and enough days to get around to writing it all down. Still better than the Belgium entry that I still have half-finished from a year ago, locked away Private cause I never went back to finish writing it. Ah well, c'est la vie.