Of the five of us in the borrowed, un-air-conditioned Tahoe pulling a borrowed (at that point unbeknownst to us), un-air-conditioned RV, 20-something Air Force veteran Pico was the lone NASCAR fan, our tour guide. I was the lone woman.
CCB, me, Pico and another of CCB’s lunatic coworkers before the race.
When we finally got to Daytona, eons after we’d headed out, we pulled into a huge pasture already half full of Winnebagos, food stands and souvenir merchants. My first thought? “Ooh, corn dogs!”
The quality of the crowd? So consistent, it’s almost striking: Everyone was nice. Everyone smiled and waved, struck up conversations like it was a church picnic. Offered help when the generator kept shorting out the RV’s air conditioning. Joked with strangers and slapped them on the back. (My sole complaint, really, is the apparent compatibility of NASCAR and the Confederate battle flag. One complaint, yes, but it’s a biggie.)
We ran into our neighbors Larry and Kenny at the Speedway.
A shirtless three-year-old named Denver begged to play horseshoes with us. Said sometimes he drank his dad’s beer.
I show off my form playing horseshoes the entire afternoon.
The engines started, and I actually found myself hopping with glee, waiting for the green flag to drop, remembering years ago hearing the Daytona 500 pack roaring like a fleet of fighter jets down the backstretch. Over and over and over again, the sound tickles your adrenal glands, makes you smile despite yourself. I never want some weird social mindset to get in the way of that kind of excitement.
The crowd watches the blurry things on the back stretch.