Sunday, May 29, 2011

Right At Home

Today was awesome.....

I was outta bed at 3:30 this morning.  A few weeks ago I arranged to park my '53 inside an Indianapolis Firehouse and hook a ride with Engine 17 to the Indy 500.  The Chief asked me to be there at 7 am, then the Officer in Charge of the Engine called and asked me to be there a little earlier.  I certainly did not want to be late.

I rolled out of Kokomo, Indiana at about 4 am thinking there may already be race traffic.  There was, but as I arrived at Engine 17 I found they are on the outskirts of the city. I ended up getting there way early. But better way early than a minute late.

I hung out in the parking lot until an early riser came outside to greet me.  Scott brought me in and gave me a tour of their newly remodeled station.  It was beautiful.  Soon the day shift arrived and I met the crew that was going to take care of me today.  Indianapolis assigns four to an Engine and they were all great guys. They were detailed to the track for the race they had packed a grill and plenty of food and drinks.

We started out to meet at a staging point where there would be other apparatus gathering for the ride into Speedway.  The Indy Track is actually in a town within the city of Indy, confusing I know.  Speedway is techically where the track is located.

We hung out in the staging area for 15 minutes, got our briefing, and were on our way to Speedway.

We had a police escort and our own travel lane.  If you look to the right, you can see the traffic stopped...

Once we arrived at the track, I found out Engine 17 was assigned right outside the South Gate.  The Chief told me to wait and sure enough an IFD ATV arrived and brought me inside.  It was cool..

There is plenty to see once inside so I started looking around.  I did not have a garage pass cause I didn't know I needed one but walked over anyway.  I couldn't get inside the fence but did stick my camera lens through the chain link fence and got a shot of one car.  As luck would have it, that won the race.  Go figure..

I walked a little more looking for something to eat.  Walking to a counter, I saw a sign for a scrambled egg breakfast.  I ordered one and the gal told me she was all out.  I asked for a coffee and she told she was out of that, too.  I laughed and asked if she knew that was a race going on today, she laughed and said, " Have a beer ."  I told it was 8:00 in the morning.  She said , " Honey, loosen up.  It's Race Day  ! "  I found breakfast somewhere else and it did not consist of beer.

The track is enormous, there are thousands of people.  Activity was everywhere.  I made my way to my seat and was lucky to find a few real race fans there.  I don't know anything about racing so I was lucky they were there to answer my questions.  After the opening festivites and the Star Spangled Banner , etc, it was 12:03 and time for the start.  The pace car lead the pack around the track three times then dropped off. 

The roar of those engines, the cheering of the crowd, the high octane exhaust fumes, the speed....  I'm gonna tell you, it was awesome.  Everyone should experience the start of an Indianapolis 500 once in their life.

Click here for a short clip of the start...

After awhile I went down closer to the track and took this clip...

Short clip

Seeing the video is one thing, being up close is something else again...

Near the end of the race I walked toward the finish line to see the gates had been opened.  Usually you need to have a ticket to a particular section to enter but not so near the end.  So I walked in and found an empty seat six rows back from the finish line.  From there I got a good shot of the " Yard of Bricks " .  That is the name given to the finish line...  In the above picture it is to the right side.  Danica Patrick's car is the light green one, she is the only driver I know....

After the race, I made my way back to the Engine 17 boys and found there was a radio station broadcasting right next to them.  So we sat and listened to the music and helped out a few race revelers with sprained ankles and stuff in their eye,  etc.

On the ride home, the boys offered me dinner at their station which I gladly accepted.  Steak and chicken and burgers went on the grill and the usual firehouse banter ensued.  Even though I am a thousand miles away from home, I felt right at home.

I had a great day.

Tomorrow I will hit the road for Massachusetts.  My plan is to make Buffalo tomorrow night but I will play it by ear.  I hope to be home Tuesday....

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