Let’s go he said. It will be fun, he said. It will get you out of the house, he said. We have to leave within the next few minutes, so, want to go? He seemed so sure this would be fun.
Earlier this week my son had mentioned that he had planned it out. If he could get off from work early enough, he could get to the race in Martinsville, VA. A couple of days passed and he was shrugging it off as if he wasn’t going. It was a night race under the lights and he wasn’t sure he could get away from work on time to arrive on time at the track. Imagine my many thoughts as I heard his car coming in early. You can actually hear his car approaching from a half mile away on a quiet day. The dogs were both excited to run out and greet him so I opened the door and stood back.
When he walked inside I asked if he was going to the race. He countered that with, “Are we going?”. “We?” I think it was his impish grin that did me in before he dealt out the aforementioned comments. Still, I think if I had been given time to think, I would have come up with a few reasons not to go. The fact he had warned me it would be cold, being chief among them. As it was, I fed the dogs and brought them inside, I got my contacts in, added a couple layers of clothing, grabbed my coat and just before I walked out and met my son at the car, I called my mother to let her know we were going. All of this in a span of under thirty minutes. We were taking my Jeep so I was very glad I had filled it up on Friday.
The drive up through North Carolina was relatively uneventful. My son did mention wondering why they placed a Welcome to North Carolina in the middle of the state. I reminded him that there was a Welcome to Gaston County in the middle of the county so maybe the same people did the planning for both.
Now, as much as I would like to, being mom and all, I won’t brag on my son other than to say that every day he shows me what a good man he is through his actions. I saw examples on this drive up. I would have been stressed and anxious. He took everything and I mean everything in stride. When we finally arrived to within rock throwing distance of the track, traffic stopped. Completely. Then we would move a car length and stop. This continued for a while then I heard my son make a comment that I didn’t fully comprehend but didn’t ask. Then I saw the flashing lights approaching. Driving up the right shoulder of the road. We commented, wondering how far they would get when we saw that it was the Virginia Department of Transportation truck. They stopped at one of those big traffic information signs to start it up with information for those headed for the race. (I’m guessing here but we were so close to the track it seemed plausible) The thing was, there was a car that had been following it, a pizza delivery guy who we heard shout to the VDOT people that he had saw them doing it so he thought he would do it as well. He had managed to squeeze his way into traffic directly behind us. To which my son muttered something mildly impolite.
As we continued this weird game of traffic red light green light, we watched the pizza delivery guy behind us as they edged ever closer back toward the shoulder. I think it was the car from a competing pizza place passing us in the other lane that finally set him off as he moved completely over and drove off up the shoulder. We had hopes that the State Police car that has passed us moments earlier would be up there to meet him but no such luck.
We finally reach the traffic light at the top of the hill only to see several police vehicles parking directly in front of us on the other side of the intersection. One of the officers walked to the driver side of our car and asked if we were going to the race. Upon my son’s confirmation he told us to turn there as the parking lot where we were headed was fast filling up. He informed us that there would be signs and an officer directing traffic. We thanked him and made the turn. Less than a mile up the road we found the turn off and began to make our way to parking. In a large field, behind really nice large recreational vehicles. I know those campers are really nice inside and cost more than my house, but I wouldn’t want to drag one of those around.
Parked finally, my son decides to walk to a nearby convenience store slash gas station. Inside he purchases a couple of sandwiches and a drink. We then make our way toward the track. All the while as we had been driving, and walking, it had been misting rain. My shoes were soaked from the grass in the field where we parked and the wind was knife..or should I say, ice, sharp. It started sleeting. Walking up to where we needed to turn in to get to the gate I watched as the police were directing traffic, people and vehicle. I honestly wondered for a moment if the car I was watching was going to stop as directed but the finally did allowing the pedestrians to cross. As the officer stepped back out of the road, we reached where he stood. Do you want to see a police officer smile? Tell them thank you. Simply thank you. I don’t know if it was mine, my son’s or both, but that show of appreciation did bring a smile.
We finally get to the gate. The bag I carried is clear and small so it was easy to see what it contained. The drinks we were carrying was in plastic bottles. My son had the tickets brought up and ready on his phone and the metal detector found nothing so we were in and headed for our seats. And it began raining and sleeting harder. We had already accepted that the start of the race would be delayed so we found a place under the seats to wait it out.
Finally we headed for our seats. Now, my son had waited until right before we left the house to purchase tickets. I had asked him how close they were to the track and he had told me within spitting distance. He didn’t exaggerate. Our seats were front row, near center of the straight away. And it was cold and only going to get colder.
The race itself, was not one of the more exciting. My favorite driver did well but didn’t quite make it where it counted. It happens. As soon as the checkered flag dropped and the winner had done their burn off the tires move, I asked my son if we could head for the car. I was by this point shaking almost uncontrollably. He thankfully didn’t argue even as I know he would have liked to have simply hung around longer.
As we headed out I took hold of the back of his arm and held on. The last thing I wanted was to get separated in that crowd. We got out of the stands, out of the track and headed for the car. We did make a detour though. We were headed back to the store, for coffee he said. My son doesn’t drink coffee so I knew it was for me. We almost made it without incident. We went to step over a small ditch only I misjudged in the low light and my foot slipped taking me to the ground. My son and two other witnesses to my fall were checking to make sure I was okay. Thank you, I’m fine. Inside my son actually bought a cup of some of the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Because it was chocolate and it was hot.
Walking through the dark, mostly guessing for a while that we were going the right way, but then my son began recognizing landmarks, we walked into the large field where we had parked. Using the key fob to find my car we finally reached the car and getting inside started the car and turned up the heat. It was midnight, and we still had a wait ahead as we watched half the population of a small state leaving the many parking lots around us. Finally, nearly forty-five minutes later, we pulled out and away.
I found out after a while, that for some reason my son had got up around five thirty in the morning so he was fast approaching twenty-four hours of being awake. He had also worked and now watched a race. He had to be tied, but he was doing well, until he wasn’t. He tired everything, he put his favorite music on, he stopped at a rest area and purchased a cold drink, he listened to me talk and then laughed at me as I struggled to stay awake even as I kept nodding off. After a while though I got my second wind and told him I could drive. All he had to do was find somewhere safe to pull over and I would take over. Eventually he had no choice. It wasn’t a problem of staying awake, it was that his contacts had gone blurry and he was having problems seeing well enough.
We were only thirty minutes from home when I took over. One of those NASCAR spotters would have been proud of him as he alerted me to ever potential hazard ahead. I was so very happy to pull in our driveway. Once inside the house my son let the dogs out so I could remove my contacts. I then added wood to the smoldering fire in the wood stove and after calling the dogs in headed for bed. It didn’t take long before I was out for the count.
Mom called at eight thirty. In her defense, dad had told her about the rain. Apparently he didn’t realize that the race was merely delayed not called off. I did try to go back to sleep but that wasn’t happening. In the end, it was in fact an adventure, one I am still thawing out from and trying to regain all my hearing as my son had forgotten the earplugs, but an adventure. I just hope the next one, is warmer.