A Day at the Racetrack
Monday in Orlando, we decided to do some sightseeing and go to Daytona to see the racetrack. It’s an astonishing place, a stadium that seats over 100,000 people along the straightaway of a 2 1/2 mile steeply banked tri-oval. (Tri-oval being a made up word to describe a D shaped racetrack; they pushed one side out to make the course longer and allow better views.)
We purchased our tickets for the 30 minute tour, got loaded into trailers of bench seats towed behind a pickup truck and set off to see the sights.
The first thing we saw was the track itself–banked 31º to allow the stock cars to roar through at over 200 mph.
When the place was built, in 1959, they had to dig out a million cubic yards of dirt to make the banking, which created a large lake on the property which is stocked with fish and is occasionally the site of fishing derbies.
The previous day there had been a Ferrari event, and the place was still crowded with high class Italian supercars, seeming parked willy-nilly all over the joint.
We stopped in the middle of the infield and got an clear view of the entire grandstand.
The low point of the tour, to me, was when they trooped us all through the fan area and the pits to get our photos taken–so they could try to sell us prints. I hate it when they do that on cruise ship or the line into Graceland, and I hated it here.
On the other hand, there was snarky pleasure in watching the tourists who fell for the cheap gambit;
On the other hand, the tour was billed as 30 minutes and lasted 45, so I don’t feel so ripped off about wasting time on the photo dodge.
The tour ended at the door to the museum of racing. Yes, there was yet another guy trying to get us to pose for a trite photo, but we just walked on past, and enjoyed the cars and memorabilia inside.
Leaving the museum, one perforce goes through the gift store. Lots of shirts and caps and beer coozies with team logos and the numbers of everyone’s favorite drivers. Then I found something I cannot explain, but there it was for a mere $27.95.
I don’t know what a ‘fan fist’ is, but now I know where to get one.
The track is an amazing facility, a $400 million temple to American racing of all types–stock car, motorcycle, supercross, even boat races on the lake. The design is impressive; over 40 escalators and dozens of elevators. The most expensive seats are high up, so you can see the entire course. The seat backs are a random mix of colors, so they appear to be occupied to the TV cameras even when they aren’t. There are hundreds of camping sites for people to spend days at the track, watching qualifying, practice and then the race.
After the track, we headed out to a diner our friends knew of out in the boonies, the kind of place we find in the delta around here. Sadly, it was closed on Monday, so we Googled and Yelped and hunted around and decided to eat at the Cracker Jack and Tiki Bar in Titusville. It was just what we wanted:
The Cracker Jack is a simple place, serving good seafood with a very friendly staff. I had a wrap of grouper, served Jamaican jerk style:
Jerk is a spice mix peculiar to Jamaica, and I like it. You can’t get much of it in the Bay Area, so this was a treat.
Gail and Susan decided to split the seafood boil, which was advertised as being sufficient for two. They lied. It would feed an army.
This was an amazing amount of seafood. I doubt that I could buy that much at the local grocery for the $30 we were charged. We tried mightily, but weren’t able to finish it all. Four ramekins of melted butter disappeared as we continued to drown crustaceans in liquid fat.
Sated with seafood, we headed back to Orlando, where we made a stop to visit the darling Frances, my blog’s biggest fan. No trip to Florida is complete without seeing Frances.
Frances is a tiny woman of a certain age, perfectly coiffed and dressed for company. Her lovely apartment in a retirement tower is decorated for Christmas in magnificent crystal objets d’art, but the item she treasures most is a creche she has had since buying it at F. W. Woolworth’s in 1950, when she and her husband were young and poor.
Every piece is carefully preserved, from top to bottom:
Frances was, as usual, full of the zest of life, telling stories both new and old, inquiring about our trip and the tournament, being the perfect hostess. She is just a delight.
Taking our leave before we wore our friend out, we headed home and collapsed. We had a day of sightseeing, eating and visiting with a dear friend. Life is good.