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a couple of rookies stumble their way around one wild week
After having enough of a bizarre cold streak this spring, we decided to head down South and check out one of the wildest races, and parties, that Nascar has to offer. First off, let me declare that my wife and I aren’t huge Nascar fans. We are from Indianapolis though, so we do have a natural inclination towards watching cars drive really fast around an oval, but it’s not something we seek out more than once a year at the Indy 500. We do, however, really love camping and a good party. One day, I saw an ad for Talladega, and randomly sent an email to Logan asking, “Hey, do you want to go down to Talladega and camp for a few days and watch the race?” This was mostly written in jest. “Yup,” was the reply I received almost immediately. I had no intention of actually doing this, but she had just called my bluff. Now, I was committed. Since the camping was free, we splurged on some nice tickets (more on that later), packed up the tent, said good-bye to the lake and set off for warmer weather! Things, as they say, did not go as planned, but in many ways, that’s what made this an amazing, ridiculous, and amazingly ridiculous vacation! Oh yeah, and we survived the severe thunderstorms, five days of marathon drinking and sleep deprivation, and a late night attack from Godzilla! It was wild. Here’s the recap:
It was a terrible day in Indy on Thursday when we left, but it was beautiful the rest of the 8-hour drive there, with just a minor traffic delay in downtown Nashville. I powered through 6 straight hours on one tank all the way to Huntsville, where we stopped and had some authentic Alabama BBQ. Delicious. Tennessee wins the award for worst drivers, Alabama wins the award for fastest drivers. Crazy fast. We got to the North Park right as the sun was setting and furiously attempted to set up shop. The campground was mostly empty, we drove up the big hill in the back and found a nice flat spot that seemed to be close to where the action would take place (first mistake). We got the entire camp set-up in the dark, and it was hot. I was sweating profusely, which is par for the course. Part of living the lake life is being friendly and social, so the first thing we did after setting the camp up was to walk around and make friends. The other benefit of making friends around you in this type of event is that people will watch your stuff, and you will watch theirs. Believe me, being nice and friendly and social paid off big, big time (life lesson for the kids). The rest of the night was pretty subdued, we even got to watch a hockey game on an outdoor screen set-up. "Roughing it" for sure. This would be the last night we got any real sleep.
Solid 4 or 5 hours of sleep, but I was up for the sunrise to take some photos and get the fire going. We decided we were going to start using our Cabela's Cast Iron set for most of our cooking, and I had a special recipe I wanted to try for breakfast. Layer in spicy sausage, hash browns, eggs, and biscuits, wait a few minutes and that's it. Unfortunately, I had it too close to the fire, and over cooked it. It was still good.
Of course, we had some breakfast cocktails to get the morning started right. The rest of the morning we just took it easy and watched the people start milling about. Walked around the camp, talked with our wild and crazy friends from Destin, FL, learned some new drinking games, and blah blah blah......no one cares about the boring stuff. Sunset was when the atmosphere really started to crank up. As I alluded to earlier, we had set up shop in the center of the action unknowingly, and people were starting to mill about around us. We were literally right next to the "Tiger Prowler" and just a few spots away from "Player Central." This could get crazy.
Right about the time that things were amping up, so was mother nature. Dark clouds were looming and approaching fast, and the storm was coming. We got everything packed and put away, lowered the canopy and took shelter in the tent. Now, all of our friends around us offered us shelter in their campers (remember why it's good to be nice!), but we decided to stay in the tent in case anything blew over and that way we could be right there. The storm hit hard around 8:00 and raged for a solid hour. It was intense, but the tent held up like a champion. After 2 hours, the rain was still falling and we had been drinking all day, so we went to bed. 10pm. At 10:30pm, boom, boom, boom.....the party was on apparently. The Tiger Prowler had a full light show set-up, a dj booth, and a stage, and they were ready to party. The rain was still falling though, and would increase quickly. At 11, they shut it back down. Back to bed. 1:30am.....boom, boom, boom...the party was on again! This time though, I opened my tent door to check it out, and there were about 300 people literally outside my tent. "Holy sh*t!" I said to Logan. Get out here. People were all over, around, and walking through our stuff. We had rented our own port-a-potty (best $105 I've ever spent), and had it locked. That did not stop literally everyone from trying to use it. After trying to break the lock off, they eventually decided to pee on the port-a-potty wall, or right on our tent. This was not a party for us. We spent the next 4 hours sitting outside trying to manage a whole lot of very drunk, very aggressive young males. We had been there for 2 days and didn't meet anyone that wasn't overly nice and fun and friendly, but the night brings out the crazies, and they were all on my front porch. After a couple of hours, people started to respect our boundaries, until we were attacked by Godzilla.
Godzilla was a large 20-something gal, who had over-served herself, and clearly had some self-esteem issues. While we were watching the front of our tent, the back began to shake vigorously. I walked around the tent to see what the deal was, and there she was, trying to get into our tent through a solid wall. Her three friends were trying, nobly, to get her to stop and go home. There was no stopping Godzilla though. She was clearly distressed, so I, being the good samaritan (second mistake), went over to help her, and to keep her from breaking my tent. She was barefoot, but she "had to put her boots on." Her friends were holding her up, so I put her socks and boots back on and said "Ok, you're all set. Now on your way!" "But I have to peeeeeeeeeeeee" she drunkenly replied. "Good luck with that, now on your way." Her friends pleaded with her to go, but she saw the port-a-potty, and she didn't care. She bee-lined to our toilet, I told her that my patience was up and it was time to go (it had been 20 minutes at this point). 2 of her friends said "i can't deal with this anymore" and stormed off, leaving just me, Godzilla, Godzilla's equally drunk and horrible boyfriend. Well Godzilla went and straight ripped the hinges off our toilet. Now Logan was involved, and we were both pretty angry. These people needed to go. It took us another 30 minutes to chase them off and we were about to call it a night (it was 4 am). There are plenty of Godzilla sequels though, and this was no different.
She came storming back, and this time walked right into and through our campfire, throwing our tripod and grill to the side as she stormed through again (barefoot) and made her way to the stage. No one wanted to see Godzilla's boobs, but there was no avoiding it, she was going to show them. The only funny part about this was that now she wouldn't get off the stage, and we laughed that it was the Tiger Prowler's problem now. Still, we weren't going to turn in until Godzilla was gone for good. She was booed off the stage and finally began to stumble home, but first made a stop back at our tent, to which I said I'd had enough of them and went to flag down the next police car that drove by. Boy I should have done that earlier. They moved on and sat down on the steps of someone's camper. That didn't go over well either, and finally, at 5:30, Godzilla disappeared back to the murky depths of the ocean from whence she came. So that was a great day 2!
The music had just shut down at one party, but the music at another party picked up at 7am. Day 3 was starting early! The weather was beautiful and we were ready for another fun-filled day. We were still extremely annoyed by the night's events, but despite everything, all our stuff was fine and I was able to fix the lock on the toilet. Got the fire going, made the rounds around camp, I drove into town to replenish our ice, and since I was pretty hung-over, I made myself a screwdriver with breakfast. Our neighbors offered us their tickets to the Nationwide race (again, being friendly counts), and we set off on the long, and I mean long, walk all the way to the south end of the track. We hadn't intended to go to the race, however, a series of Tweets from Busch Light (@buschbeer) to me had given us an incentive. We stopped at their tent, I showed them the tweets, and they gave me this sweet Busch beer hat! We drank several Busch Lights afterwards. #buschisback Saturday's race featured several of the big names from Sunday's race, and we had a fun time. One thing we noted was that Nascars are nearly as loud as IndyCars. Still loud enough to wear hearing protection (although I was shocked at how many people didn't wear any, especially children).
After the race, we walked back to the campground, which was probably 3 or 4 miles, so we were definitely ready for a beverage. Upon returning, we were greeted with some very good news--our buddies running the Tiger Prowler had placed stakes and caution tape all around our campground and then we built a caution tape wall from their bus to another camper. The guys running the bus were so nice and were happy to help us avoid another Godzilla attack! One of them quipped, "yeah, we hope she doesn't make an appearance either!" The rest of the night went off without a hitch, apparently building a wall works! It was a wild and crazy night, we got on top of the Tiger Prowler and watched the show, we headed over to "Player Central" and hung out with the Degabus guys, and they were great. I didn't document the evening festivities, but they'd be NSFW anyways. Like I said, it was pretty wild, and without the rain delay, the crowd was much more social, and way less angry drunk kids. We went to bed around 4:30.
Day 4 - race day
The music literally never stopped. After an hour of sleep, I was up again to the sound of "SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUN-DAY" being repeatedly blared over the loudspeakers. I stumbled over to ask the guys to turn the music off as I figured it would only be one or two of them still awake. I was wrong. There were 20 maniacs (i mean that endearingly) still awake, still playing games, and still being hilarious. Instead of turning the music down, they shoved a Busch Light in my hand and re-racked the beer pong table. It was going to be a very long day. NOW IN RETROSPECT, I should have just gone back to bed for a few hours. Instead, Logan and I had decided prior to the trip that we'd get up early and go to the track and take in the whole experience. We had bought two seats in the Back Forty Beer Co. Paddock Club, which included a garage tour, pit passes, and all you can eat and drink. What we hadn't anticipated was the level of hangover that we would have, which was epic. We also hadn't planned on them switching the beers they had available to an IPA and a very hoppy brown ale. I love beer. I did not love these beers. We really needed a nap, but we pressed on. It was a cool experience walking in the pits, and the crews were surprisingly chatty, and mercifully the Advocare crew gave us some of their products. One crew member said, "Here, try this. I hear it's good for a hangover." How could he tell? That's how bad it was. Here are some sights from around the track.
So Ever wonder what the pit crew does when not doing pit crew stuff? Well, they basically do the same as everyone else. Sit around and watch the race, smoke, hang out, etc. When something happens and it's time to rock, these guys are so dang good at what they do, they are ready to go at a moment's notice, and then when it's over, it's back to hanging out. There does appear to be one terrible job among them; one guy from each team just walked to the gas station and back hauling the empty and then filled gas cans. Non-stop, back and forth, all race. Sometimes they carried tires. My take on that is either that's the new guy, or that guy is being punished. Hope they have good shoes! So we ate, we tried to drink, and we watched a crazy race. Was the Paddock Club worth the price? The seats were not great to watch the race, but I enjoy watching all of the minutiae in the pits and around the crews, so that was cool. On the other hand, the food was mediocre, the service was abysmal, and the atmosphere of the Paddock Club crowd was lethargic at best. We made our best efforts to rally and get our money's worth, but it was a long day. The tickets did include a parking pass that would have been great, except that we were being responsible and figured we'd be in no shape to drive home, so we walked. As it turned out, we really could have driven home without a problem, however, the walk was fine. The answer is no on the Paddock Club in the future. Poor return on investment.
Not 5 minutes after we got back to our tent, a super-storm hit us out of nowhere, and caught us unawares (it looked like it was going to storm all day, however it had cleared up as we left the speedway, thus me claiming it had come out of nowhere). As we scrambled to get everything packed down in the rain, we lowered the canopy. This unfortunately caused the stake lines to slack, and immediately the wind lifted it, then snapped it, then flipped it into the tent, and then our buddies in the camper next to us came out and helped us cut the lines free, and that would be the end of our really nice canopy. RIP canopy, you were awesome. We re-staked the tent, and bundled up inside; "Well this really sucks" I complained.
We got a break in the rain after about an hour, we were both utterly exhausted, supremely hung-over (pretty sure I was still drunk), and pretty soured on our original plan to stay there that night. The forecast didn't look good for the remainder of the night or the morning, so we packed up camp in the rain, said goodbye to our friends and hit the road for a hotel. "We'll see you next year!" said the Florida crew. I think you will guys, I think you will! After a miserable hour of driving (I was not driving), we stopped on the north side of Birmingham, got a hotel room, and took the best shower in our lives, and melted into the bed for some much needed sleep.
It took us 8 hours to get down to Talladega and we only stopped once. It took closer to 10 on the way back, as we were both struggling big time, and we stopped to switch drivers every two to three hours, plus numerous other pit stops. It was by far the most miserable drive I've ever had. It rained the whole trip, my hip was on fire from all of the walking and now the sitting, and I was literally dying (figuratively). Everything was wet, the car smelled horrible, and when we got home, we still had to unpack. It took me another 4 days to recover. I have never drank so much coffee.
This is a ridiculously long post, so I'll keep the summary short and sweet. We had one helluva great time, despite the thunderstorms, Godzilla, and an underwhelming VIP experience. Mistakes were made, but we've got a baseline now, and next year we'll be better prepared (i.e. we will definitely bring caution tape, and we will not set up next to the Tiger Prowler). We made some friends, saw (and partook) in some shenanigans, and we got to see a wild and fun race. We will definitely go again! If you haven't ever been to a Nascar or IndyCar race, you should go check it out. It's definitely a great spectator sport, and the spectacle is something you have to experience.
Now that my head has finally stopped hurting, I can get back out on the lake! Or at least, as soon as it stops freaking raining here.
Thanks for reading! DEGAAAAAAAAAA!
The "King" of the Lake
I'm Mike, I live on a lake in the Midwest. I boat, ski, swim, kayak, tube, float, drink, and everything else there is to do on the lake, and then I write about it! I have a Golden Lab named Murphy, and when not injured I compete in triathlons. Read More
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