…joy turned to shock as we discovered.. the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!
Suddenly everything became difficult. Indecision reigned. The heat haze of 90-degree, May 29, seemed to choke our beer and meat-addled brains’ ability to comprehend reality. The steamy grass and gravel confines of Lot 2 had suddenly become a desperate place tinged with the smell of panic. Our ranks constricted into a more defensive posture. Even the slightest of issues so easily dispatched just minutes earlier, became cause for alarm. Gravel dust and sweat were mating with abandon on my skin. There are GRASS BLADES AND DIRT IN THE ICE SLURRY!!
This trip will NOT end like this. We have the entire Indianapolis-fuckin’-500 tomorrow. The time to overcome obstacles was now. First up, each man took a quick inventory of beverages consumed. Preliminary calculations went beyond initial comprehension. In times like this it’s almost as if the brain understands it is no longer functioning at 100 percent, furiously ignores the messages and signals from the most-affected area, and allows for basic logic and math calculations to be performed.
Through some well-thought-out teamwork, we were able to arrange a party for supplies. When they returned with two cases to last the remaining 20 hours, we were surprised with the extended bonus of cheap cigars and magazines whose theme seemed to revolve around a poorly-lit, yet vaguely art-like appreciation for the female form, complete with pages and pages of telecommunication ads, all in a foreign language that appeared to be Russian. I took this as a sign that things would be OK. For what remained of the now-scant daylight hours, we set about a final straightening of the camp site.
A sense of order restored, we settled back into our chairs, reconvening around our re-stocked cooler and makeshift soft-sided pictorial gallery. We offered thanks for the fresh beer and a return to a more serene, seated conversation as our Wisconsin neighbors set about foraging for local food and investigating the rising nightlife on Georgetown Road.
Those moments, huddled as a small group far away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, I believe gave us a better appreciation for the value of our adventure, comradeship, and even our friendships. Daylight and activity waned. Consumer-level fireworks popped and sparkled in the distance. Music from other camps wafted as we noticed the campground nearing capacity. Sights were now beginning to affix on the remaining 20 hours that lay ahead.
Drinking light lagers continuously for extended periods of time prior to age 40 isn’t terribly difficult nor is very complicated. It is almost cleansing in fact. It was easy for us to see why, as men age, they seem to increasingly treasure times like these – they afford us a respite and time for reflection. My race rookies and I even indulged in some poor-tasting cigars, salty snacks, and Indy 500 race conversation. As 1am beckoned and final arrangements made for tent-sleep, we all also settled the final tabs with our bladders and retreated to our modest nylon shelters, satisfied that we sucked the marrow of that Saturday with appropriate vigor.
Regardless of how much we choose to believe the illusion of how evolved or civilized we are, the body and brain has it’s millenia-old systems of well-groomed self-preservation if we dare to listen.
I find mine becomes apparent only when asleep. This system was activated with a rustling of grass and snickers that were much too close to our defensively-placed tents near the vehicle and back of our lot. Ears pricked up and alerted all senses to an ominous shadow on the tent’s far side, but it was already too late. Our playful neighbors had pulled a trump card from their camper and decided that we would be the victims.
At approximately 3:11am local Indiana time, we were quite rudely awakened to a standard-issue crowd bullhorn just 12 inches from our tent and one of the Wisconsin boys singing some currently popular song and also imploring us to come out and play some more. We all remained motionless and through visual communication realized we had been had. Our first strategy was to ignore it and play ‘possum even though no person would ever assume sleep could be maintained though a bullhorn’s call. The strategy worked for a couple of minutes but the bullhorn was then set on the tent sidewall and the taunt continued.
At approximately 3:14am local time, nearby female voices giggling with our neighbor boys implored them to stop as the joke was clearly over and now were only antagonizing us. The one of us closest to that tent wall only later admitted it was only through both great fatigue and restraint that he didn’t violently send the bullhorn back through the jokester’s incisors and canines…
An uneasy calm returned to camp as the voices again trailed away whether back into the night or just into the camper, I don’t know. Knowing the day’s physical expenditure and requirements of the next day, I used every bit of personal soft good to insulate my head from sound, returning to whatever form of rest I could muster…
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.
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!!
THAT was maybe the most topsy-turvy Pole and Bump Day in recent history and maybe of all time.
I can say that despite the all the nonsensicalness of who qualified when and where and got bumped and by whom… I correctly predicted the outcome of qualifying…
for one driver anyway – Vitor Meira, middle of Row 5. I was within one spot of another 4 drivers – Dixon, Power, Junquiera, and Kimball. It appears I have the Foyt Racing stable pretty well pegged.
I managed to get only two of the seven ‘bumpees’ correct – Saavedra and Jakes, meaning 5 of the drivers I had bumped made the show. I’m happy to report that Pippa Mann, Hinchcliffe, Lloyd, Howard, and Beatriz made it in but coming at the expense of very good drivers such as Andretti Autosport teammates Hunter-Reay and Conway, AFS Racing’s Matos, and both Dragons Speed and Tung.
Now excitement shifts into top gear, for raceday is nearly upon us and I for one cannot wait to see what this ol’ Speedway is going to give us this year… I’m foreseeing something rather special…
“Race Prediction?”, you ask.
OK, not gonna just pick a winner, but a Top 10.
Panther finally gets their first win at Indy as Buddy Rice (crazy, flat-brimmed cap and all) wins his 2nd.
Runner-up Dixon and teammate Franchitti will have been in the Top 5 all day, but fate conspires against TCGR near the end and Rice (who history will report had had the racing gods smiling upon him that day) steps through the breach and takes the victory.
Dixon finishes 2nd, Bell 3rd, Castroneves 4th, Tagliani 5th, Wheldon 6th, Carpenter 7th, Franchitti 8th, Meira 9th, Rahal 10th.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Think I’m nuts and want to tell me so? Please do. Leave a comment below. It’s like a type-written answering machine. I may be listening to you, I may not. Yep I’m a screener of my home phone. “Leave a comment… I’ll get back to you.”
Enjoy your race weekend (I know I plan to), and don’t miss the 100th Anniversary edition of the Indianapolis 500!