What a whirlwind weekend I've had! It started on Thursday with Maddy's class field trip to the State Museum and the Lincoln Museum. I highly recommend both museums. The State Museum has some great exhibits about Illinois before civilization, complete with mastodon skeletons, fossils, realistic recreations of wildlife and other cool stuff. It was very hands-on for the kids. The Lincoln museum, while educational and informative, was not quite as hands-on. A volunteer came on the bus before we even got off to tell us the rules and regulations. She kept emphasizing that there were security cameras EVERYWHERE so don't touch ANYTHING! These poor children were scared to death. They would see a security guard and get all freaked out. They still had a great time, especially in the section called Mrs. Lincoln's Attic, which is designed specifically for children, with costumes and period toys. The girls really enjoyed dressing up in the skirts and bonnets. Of course, Maddy put on Lincoln's suit. Because that how she rolls.
My sugar and I took off Thursday night for Nashville on our way to Bristol, baby! About 45 minutes into the trip, I remembered that I forgot to pack my tennis shoes. So we stopped and I had to buy some new ones. Normally, I'd be excited about shoe shopping, but tennis shoe shopping is boring. Our hotel was quite nice, although they failed to give us shampoo. It wasn't a big deal because I bring my own, but Maddy likes it when I bring her the hotel bottles.
Friday morning we got up and headed for Bristol. I have been to Gatlinburg before, but that's as far east in Tennessee as I'd traveled. Our weather wasn't the greatest. It drizzled and rained on us most of the way there. I was disappointed, because I remembered how pretty the drive is with the Smoky Mountains. You really couldn't see much because of the rain. I made a mental note (snort!) to take pictures on the way home.
Saturday we got up, packed up the coolers and headed for the track. We brought the canopy, portable grill, chairs, tables, coolers, beer, burgers, and all the rest of the trappings for tailgating. The parking lot was just that - a parking lot. No one was tailgating, which was very surprising. A few discreet inquiries later, and we figured out that it's more popular in the campgrounds. Live and learn. At least we have the equipment for July when we go to Gateway. I know they tailgate there, I've done it for the past two years.
Now, if you've never been to a NASCAR race, I highly recommend it. What other sport allows, nay, encourages you to bring your own coolers and food? That's a trend I wish other sports would embrace.
You get a very diverse crowd with racing, too. It's not just rednecks anymore, although they are well represented. I am also glad the weather was cooler, because sometimes there are some bold fashion choices worn by women who are a bit, say, ample, for those clothes. Tank tops aren't for everyone, I'm just saying. Plus you get the fans who are totally into their drivers. I did wear my Jimmie Johnson hat and sweatshirt, but you get people who are decked out from head to toe with their favorite driver. I saw one woman who had on a hat, shirt, sweatshirt, pajama pants and Crocs, all in Dale Jr. It was just...wow. The couples who dress alike are pretty amusing sometimes, too. I like Jimmie Johnson but my sugar is a Tony Stewart fan. When I pointed out a couple that were dressed in identical Stewart clothes, I said "what fun is rooting for the same driver?" He said "I bet they're happy." Now that was funny, in light of our "discussions" about our respective drivers.
We got to the track in time to watch practice laps. This track is a short track, only a half-mile. The track itself is recessed so the spectator stands are up above the pavement. Our seats were awesome and we were able to see the whole track. I was so glad we got there during practice because then you can go up to the fence (until security wanders by) and get a better view of the pits and the cars, and you can feel the wind as they zoom by at 100+ mph. Let me tell you, there is nothing like the acrid smell of Sunoco fuel and Goodyear rubber in the morning.
It did start raining Saturday afternoon, so we boarded our shuttle bus and went back to the parking lot to restock the coolers and check the weather. The weather forecast was not promising, so we headed back to the hotel for hot showers and cold beer. They did finally run the race, but it was delayed almost two hours and was cut short due to another rain delay.
Sunday was still cloudy but much colder. No rain was forecast, thankfully. We bundled up, headed back out to the track and wandered around the souvenir and driver trailers. I bought a shirt for Maddy and some stuff for some friends of ours (I'm not telling because she reads this and I don't want to ruin the surprise!) The race was pretty exciting. My sugar's favorite driver was about two laps from winning when he was wrecked out by another driver. I turned to say something to my sugar and he was already up at the fence hollering obscenities and making rude gestures to the driver. That was pretty funny because he's normally a pretty mild-mannered guy.
We got back home Monday night and after 17 loads of laundry I went to bed. It's nice to get away but it's even better to come back to your own bed.
All in all, it was a pretty fantastic experience. We're already planning on where to go next year. Hopefully our friends can go and we can make a vacation out of it.
I took so many photos I started a Flickr account. Go here if you want to see all my lovely pictures.