USA D9: Five hours across four states for NASCAR practice day
With a few hours of driving planned we didn’t want to muck around, especially if we wanted to get to the track by early afternoon. After giving the waffle-maker in the breakfast buffet another whirl we set off. Starting in North Carolina, we drove through South Carolina, then Georgia, before finishing half-way across Alabama.
Driving across state lines is always announced with a welcome sign; often you also see a change in the road surface (North into South Carolina was one example – suddenly it was like being back in NZ with patchy tarseal rather than concrete) or speed limits. You have to keep your wits about you with the latter as the speed will varying from 55-60-65-70 just depending, and what the satnav understands to be the limit is not always correct on account of the constant state of change with the big road developments that have been a feature all the way down.
Not that everyone is heedful of speed limits. Countless people blew by us today at 90-100mph despite the many signs that warn of electronic or plane surveillance, or that speed limits will be strictly reinforced, or that fines will be doubled if you’re caught speeding where there are road workers present. It’s rare to see the law out on patrol, though we did see several on the shoulders having snared some prey.
While the flow along the i-roads was pretty good today, getting through Atlanta was interesting. I appreciated the challenge of being in the left lane, as per the TomTom’s suggestion, to then be instructed to exit right, requiring the impossible task of crossing six lanes of fast, busy traffic, in half a mile. Fuhgeddaboudit.
The miles eventually counted down until finally we were in sight of the place we’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time: Talladega Superspeedway, the longest and fastest of the NASCAR oval tracks. Today was Friday, practice day ahead of the race weekend culminating in the 500 mile race on Sunday. We built our trip around being able to attend this.
Driving in you get a flavour of how big this place is and how popular events are (though perhaps this isn’t unusual with NASCAR tracks) given the multi-lane roads and massive parking and camping areas. Friday is a relatively quiet day – there were lots of people around and campers getting set up, but nothing close to capacity. By Sunday this place will be heaving.
We found a park with only minor difficulty and walked on in. I bought a t-shirt, Mike made a Skype call to his boys and we found the ticket booth. It was a tricky process collecting our pre-purchased tickets for Sunday, the country music blaring in the background made communication difficult and so I made a special effort to sound out the ‘r’s in my words. I hadn’t thought too much about it before but I realise that Kiwis usually don’t enunciate ‘r’s at the end of syllables.
Being a practice day the tickets are $15 for general admission so the grandstands are a free-for-all. Approaching one of the entry points the cars were out on the track and I couldn’t help but grin. That noise! We popped out into one of the grandstand sections and bam!, there it all was – the cars, the track, the speed, the sound.
We stayed for two practice sessions for the cars and the start of qualifying for the trucks. Not all cars were out on the track, though many did still circulate in a pack, so we can’t wait until Sunday when we’ll see all 43.
From there we had another hour’s drive to get to our accommodation on the outskirts of Birmingham. We sussed out the local shops for dinner and other food supplies.
Unfortunately I managed to strain my back today (not lifting the pumpkin!) and my walk kind of resembles that of my 96yo grandmother, but hopefully it will settle down in the next couple of days.
- Time zones crossed: 1
- Approximate no. of firewood vendors along Speedway Boulevard: 30
- Number of days now without seeing a squirrel: 2