Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 27

The Time Mookie and Megan Trespassed On Atlanta Speedway

Back in 2001, "Megan(*)" and I decided to take a short vacation to Ft. Walton Beach, FL.  We found an inexpensive flight, and Megan got us a good deal at some condo-like place right on the beach.  It was going to be a nice get-away.  I say "was" because (as you can probably remember) Osama and Company showed up one fateful day in September and ruined a lot of things.  Due to the uncertainty that surrounded that ordeal, we decided it would be best to cancel our trip while we could get our money back, or instead of trying to go on the trip and get it cancelled by some other "issue."

Thankfully, the airlines got back into the skies and the world tried to resume business as usual - albeit a more security conscious one.

A month or so went by, and Megan came up with the idea of going to Atlanta.  Again, we could get a cheap flight, and the hotel was reasonable.  We had a friend that lived in Atlanta, so I emailed him and let him know we were going to be in the ATL, and wondered if he and his wife would like to meet for dinner some evening.  To make a long story short, they INSISTED we stay at their home for our trip, thus sparing us from some hotel somewhere.  We accepted, and our stay there was delightful.  During the days, Megan and I went on our various excursions around the city.  At night, we'd go out to eat with our friends.  It was nice.

One of the places we wanted to check out while we were there was Atlanta Motor Speedway.  It is about an hour south of Atlanta in a town called Hampton.  We had looked into it, and you could get a tour of the place, including a "trip around the race track."  We hoped they'd let us drive it ourselves, but were told we'd be riding in a shuttle van around the apron of the track.  Woo.  Either way, we thought it would be fun since we were race fans.  Prior to our trip, Megan called the gift shop at the speedway and verified the details of the tour, what we'd do, and what we needed to do to do it.  She told them what afternoon we'd be down there, and the lady said that would be great and that the tour person would be there.  Awesome.

Megan and I set out for the speedway one afternoon and drove the hour it takes to get down there.  Once we get there, we were amazed to see how huge the place is.  Its big.  Per "the gift shop lady," we located the gift shop to inquire about taking the tour.  We walk up to the counter and say we'd like a tour.  The lady goes:  "Oh, the lady that does the tours just left for the day for an appointment."  Megan and I go "Does anyone else give the tour?"  She replies: "No.  Just her.  Sorry."

Well SOB-MF-GD.  We just drove a GD hour down here, and all we get to do is look at some over-priced  racing merchandise?  Thanks for nothing.

We leave the gift shop and get back in the car.  We are disgruntled about the ordeal, and wonder if we can at least see into the track somewhere.  We start driving around the road around the track, and realize quickly that we aren't going to be able to see anything.  The speedway is so banked, it is like being inside a bowl.

We drive around towards the end of the track and pass a peculiar driveway with an open gate. I jokingly say we should drive up there.  We continue on around the outside of the track, and from what I can tell, we are between Turns 1 and 2 and near the underground tunnel that goes into the track.  All of a sudden, through the fence we hear "VVVVVVVVVVVRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM!"

What was that?  Then again.

"VVVVRRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!"

I immediately think "Holy crap they are testing cars out there."  I tell Megan to turn the car around, and head back to that driveway.  "We are going up there."

We parked the car on the road just below the driveway, and started walking up this gravel hill up towards what we thought was the track, but weren't sure where this road would take us.  Once we got to the top, we found ourselves standing right next to the catch fence in turn number 1 of the speedway.  HOLY CRAP.  There were two other guys also standing there, and they were startled by our presence.  They realized that we were no one to be concerned about, and we all smiled at our mutual trespassing ways.  I look back and realize this could have been a big deal in the legal sense.  This was just after the whole 9/11 thing, and everyone was all up in arms about security, trespassing, and terrorism.  But there we were anyway, trespassing on this famed race track property.

See the red circle?  That is where we were standing.
Out on the track we quickly figured out that they weren't testing race cars, but that it was the Richard Petty School of Racing.  There was a group of cars going around the track in tandem, at about 140-150 MPH, and just ROARING as they went by.  If you've seen NASCAR on TV, you know that these cars can go way faster than that.  After a bit, the pack of cars went off into the pits at the far end of the track and a lone car came tearing off pit road and driving towards us.  It was BOOKING.  It flew into turn one past us and you could feel the ground shake.  He went through turn 2 and screamed down the backstretch.  He took the speed into turns 3 and 4 at the far end, and then came flying up the front stretch - right at us in turn one - at full speed.  VRRRROOOOOM!  Oh man it was awesome.  They were probably doing about 180-190, and you could smell the fuel and tires, and feel the heat from the car as it went blowing by.  After 2 or 3 laps, the car would go back into the pits, and another one would come tearing out onto the track.  It was amazing just watching these machines and feeling them roar by.  We stood there and watched all of this go on for 15 or 20 minutes before we decided we should probably get out of there before we got caught.  We headed back down to the car, and headed out.

So did we trespass?  Hell yes we did.  But given the BS we endured in getting snubbed on taking a tour, we felt justified in doing so.  We would have said it right to their face if we had gotten caught.  Plus, I'm sure our "self-guided tour" was way better than cruising the track apron in a mini-van at 45 MPH with "Shani'qua" at the wheel.  So my advice to you is that if you ever go check out Atlanta Motor Speedway - skip the tour.  Trespassing is easily the best way to go.  Tell 'em Mookie and Megan sent you.


(*) - Names changed to protect the guilty/innocent.

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