Ground(ed) Effects

Indycar and general autosport opinion

For each of the estimated 375,000 race visitors who descend upon Speedway, Indiana any given Memorial Day weekend, I would conservatively estimate there MUST be no less than 5 stories to tell. When you extrapolate that, Rainman, you get 1 million, 875 thousand some odd stories… EVERY YEAR. 

Granted at least half of those fall into the ‘too disturbing to recall/brain bleach’ category or tied to the ‘sworn to secrecy’ pact, never to reach beyond that inner circle of mind-altered/beer-infused/traumatic-event bonded few who witnessed it. It’s akin to being my generation’s D-Day, storming the flatlands of central Indiana and invading the fortress known as IMS. Some stories that emerge from an event as such must remain sacred, others may be told. God, I love the 500.


But I digress. This recollection comes from the minority of stories which actually can be told publicly, and from a year which I introduced my current generation of friends to the glories of the Indy 500 – 2004.

Firstly, a slight bit of background I’ve not yet discussed on this blog…

(TANGENTIAL RAMBLE DELETED)
…so in 2004, and looking for a fresh, more enthusiastic bunch along, it was decided that 3 neighbor/husband/recent-father/friends (and newly minted poker buddies) with reserved seats and a two-day tent camping pass in Lot 2, would head to Indy at dawn on Saturday of the 2004 race.

A minivan replete with two tents, camp chairs, basic charcoal grilling gear, a (unbeknownst to me) huge Jack Stack Freight House Deluxe package of glorious (overnighted on dry ice) barbequed meats and trimmings, modest personal effects, and two large coolers filled with four cases of beer and ice. Certainly more than enough for 4 chaps for 36 hours or so…

…OR SO we thought.

I waited patiently for the a quieter moment at the first of seven county lines we’d cross during our three-hour drive to reach into my sixer-cooler and crack a beer. I did it with no warning or celebration, more just to signal intent for this day. Although I had broken beer with these guys before, this would be our first road trip without spouses or kids or much of any care at all…  >PSSHHhhrrrrrrrTK< …the silence for the following seconds seemed a bit too long for my liking and was actually concerned that I had maybe overshot my targeted enthusiasm.  Silence was broken when the question came.

“Did you just crack a beer?”   …  “Yes.”   …   “Alright then, gimme one too.”

I suspected right then we had the makings of a winner. Ever-cautiously though, I explained it away by stating that my calculations had us back home in less than 36 hours remaining so every moment needed to be savored. It was agreed. The minivan’s cruise control received a bumping-up of 4 mph. Radars be damned.

Six counties later, upon our arrival to Lot 2, we were eyeballed at the gate, asked to affix the camp sticker to the glass of the minivan, and directed to the lowest, muddiest spot to tent camp in the whole of the place. We humbly asked, as tent-campers, if we can be assigned a replacement spot. DENIED by our yellow-clad lot official. This amateur geologist assured us it would be dry before evening. The entire camp lot was half-empty. Rather than argue, we allowed this over-zealous ATV-jockey to hastily depart and we then found a much more suitable locale on our own beside a very demure and friendly-appearing couple with a towable camper in a small clearing of about five spaces. They were nice enough and quite sympathetic to our original placement story.

Our enthusiasm grew as the sun and temperature rose ever-higher that day. After the essential tents and grill were set, a ring of four camp chairs surrounding a large blue and white cooler full of beer was established in the direct sunlight of this latest of May Saturdays. Much commiserating, laughing, and ever-deepening pond of empty aluminum cans later, our serenity was broken again by the now harried yellow-clad jockey directing a 1-800-RENT-RVS camper to park beside us, again with nothing for tens of yards around. 

After The Wizard of Lot sped off again, and seeing the relative proximity of park and our washers and cornhole pitches, the driver came around and offered us the deal of the weekend – in exchange for their moving a half space away from us, we would share the wasted space between us (nearly a full slot) for all of our mirth and merriment. “DEAL!”, I said to Mike from Wisconsin. Rapidly all of our gear became wider as did our neighborly stature. The camper, now parked with a sense of permanence, spat out four fresh-faced college-age lads, the fourth of whom was of larger stature than the others. His mission was clear – with beer bong in hand and already loaded, he ambled down the steps, set his feet to the ground, almost Armstrong-like, and hoisted the classic funnel tube engulfing the golden lager in three seconds. Cheers erupted. Spirits soared.

Duly impressed and eager to foster positive relations, we offered this phalanx of clean, cargo-shorted chaps some welcoming beers and a good-natured tone was struck. Several beers later however the tone turned to concern as the large fellow had surprisingly met his fill already and, nearly in the same spot as his triumphant bong, he stood erect and blew a foamy gusher of liquid beer-puke forward with a volume and force I’d not seen before. Much like a fireworks show, we all ‘OOOHHed’ and ‘AAAHHed’. Once evacuated, he retreated into the camper only to emerge minutes later clean, composed, and with a fresh polo of new pastel color tucked into his khaki shorts. Unwavering, he grabbed a fresh beer, opened the top and drank it like the previous 4 minutes never happened. Cheering and laughs ensued.  While never having been formally introduced, I proclaimed him, for our the extent of the weekend, to be known as Derrick Geyser. 

More sporting skills were made evident and our very own collegiate basketball player dazzled the Dairyland visitors with repeated washers bullseyes using a basketball shot technique instead of the traditional underhand. Other fun was had and I even was so bold as to call a 2:00 minute penalty on the visitors for misconduct in which the violator spent the time in a not-so-very-large RV storage bin. More laughs and his mates agreed, so he served his time. Fair play is fair play and I credit him with acceptance of that call. As the games wound down our joy turned to shock then as we discovered… the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!

(PART 2 TO COME)


4 thoughts on “DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling 500 Trip Memories… 2004: A New Beginning

  1. Rick says:

    How long do we have to wait for part two? I remember 2004 being the year that Buddy Rice won but also the year of the thunderstorms and tornado sighting. I gotta know where this campground story is going. I love reading other people's 500 stories.p.s. I lived in Kansas City about 10 years ago, so you had me at Fiorella's Jack Stack! Good Stuff!

    Like

  2. DZ says:

    I should have the rest up tonight… Jack Stack really tied the camp together

    Like

  3. Wait. You took…JACKSTACK? To the 500? Can not fathom… [faints]

    Like

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