My dad excitedly climbed into his red, white and blue formula Volkswagen race car, adjusted his helmet, and then flipped the ignition switch to ‘on’ and the engine roared to life. He lightly tapped his foot on the gas and the car inched forward out of the paddock spot, headed for grid as the rest of us, the family and friends, followed closely behind. The sun’s rays warmed my tender, pale skin as I left the comfort of the shade and stepped out onto the hot pavement. The pungent smell of racing fuel and rubber rushed into my nose and lungs but I didn’t mind. In fact, I’d come to like it.
Finally at grid, I held a blue and white umbrella in my sticky, sweaty palm over the driver’s seat to supply shade as he buckled his seat belt. The grid workers held up three fingers, signaling to everyone that the race would start in three minutes. I exited the grid area to wait until an announcer came on the loud speaker and exclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!” With that, an explosion of engines ignited and the pace car lead the racers out onto the track.
The pace lap took seemingly forever, but I blame my nerves for that. After they made the final turn, the green flag soared through the air and they were off. I could hear the whining of the transmissions and sputtering of the race engines as they whirled around turn one and sped down the front straightaway. My insides were knotted up and my breathing was put on hold as I desperately hoped nobody would crash, especially my dad. The most important thing was that we were all having fun because looking back ten years from now, that’s what will matter and that’s what I’ll treasure.
The race zoomed by almost as quickly as the cars had and the last lap had arrived. The checkered flag danced with excitement as the cars all dashed by one last time before the final lap of the race. My dad was in third closely trailing the second place car and I knew he could catch him. I yelled “Go Dad! Get ‘em! Catch ‘em!” even though I knew he wouldn’t hear. The car in second got away from him a little bit but my dad caught back up and sure enough, the car in second became the car in third as he made a brilliant pass in turn six and took home second place.
The races were finished for the day and my favorite part came next, sitting around the campfire making s’mores, and talking and laughing with my family. There were frogs croaking, crickets chirping, fireflies lighting up, and stars illuminating the nighttime sky. The lawn chair I was sitting on offered little warmth but the conversation was warm and the fire heated my face and hands with a steady flame.
A weekend at the Waterford Hills Raceway in Waterford, MI doesn’t sound like a vacation to some people but it’s a rare summer treat for me. It may not be a thousand miles away, but it’s just enough to escape from the grind of everyday life. When I’m there, I am happy, peaceful and my family and I enjoy spending time together. The racetrack is my home away from home.
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