Monday, June 20, 2011

Surviving the Indy 500-A Pictorial

A friend residing in Indianapolis invited the boyfriend and I to the Indy 500. He happens to own a business only steps away from the track. We really didn’t hesitate to say yes as it was a milestone 100th anniversary and we were offered prime viewing and parking spots. The following story can serve as a guide should you find yourself considering to join the thousands of people all cheering on very fast cars in the hot sun. Taking advice from the local who advised us to give ourselves plenty of time for travel, we woke up at 5AM to be out of town by 6AM to arrive in Indy by 8AM. Thankfully, I packed a race day survival pack the night before.

Again, we thought our timeline was planned PERFECTLY as we encountered no traffic all the way up I-65. We had even given ourselves enough time to stop for quality coffee and one final trip to a clean bathroom. We were further prepared to enter the heart of Indy through the side streets unknown to many out of towners but given to us by the local. We had this down! By making good time, we were on schedule to be at our friends shop by 8:30AM where plates of eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy were being served.

Items packed for a day at the races
WRONG! All plans were abandoned when we found ourselves less than 3-miles from the track at a dead standstill of cars all headed towards the Speedway. Indianapolis is not a fully integrated gridded city thus allowing for only 1-2 routes to enter the Speedway area. For the next 45-minutes, we sat in our car not moving more than six to ten inches at a time. Our coffee was emptied, our patience waning from minute to minute as we both hate to be tardy anywhere. Our host and us were exchanging constant text messages about our location and literally we were just under 3-miles away. It was past 9:30AM now and we failed to move more than a foot since we had last moved. Our only consistent scenery was a gentleman passed out on a bus stop bench who failed to wake to the thousands of parked cars surrounding him. The traffic was growing restless with horns blowing and we quickly realized we would not reach our pristine parking space in time to see the start of the race at the rates we were moving. GRRR! Thus, we had a backup plan as we packed our bikes among our survival goodies. The boyfriend and I made a last minute decision to abandon the car in a CVS parking lot and bike it in to make it to our locale in time. I was loaded down with the days necessities of sunscreen, waters, munchies, while the boyfriend refused to leave his cooler full of Blue Moon. It made for an odd displacement of items on our bike. Sadly, we left our "friend" on the bench to sleep off the morning.
Man sleeping at bus stop
We weaved through traffic like New York City couriers, often bending basic driving laws (what red light? yield?). To avoid the mass of walkers, we rode head on into oncoming traffic carefully between the double yellow line dodging large trucks with mirrors jutting out and moving over for one determined ambulance. We reached our destination in minutes (literally 15-minutes) but our wits were frazzled as we found ourselves swarmed by tons of people of all sorts. Families, frat boys, party girls, elderly couples, and ultimate race fans who had obviously started partying at dawn covered the streets, sidewalks, and few grassy spaces.

Streets lined with people
Our local guide cut through the crowds like a hot knife through butter. He knew exactly where to enter the track, how to get to our seats and when to get there. We learned the lay of the land quickly noting restroom locations and making mental notes of appropriate food choices for later. The ninety degree heat in the afternoon turned our seats into slotted frying pans slow roasting our legs. The smell of sunscreen was occasionally overtaken by the smell of pulled pork sandwiches and beer. We agreed it would be best to consume neither in the heat and drank waters. Race fans are pressed tightly into the rows of bleachers and even with ear plugs, I could hear the cheers of a young race fan to my right who downed several beers over the course of the afternoon. There was constant visual stimulation whether from the talented Indy Car drivers or the spectators who dressed themselves in bikini wear to keep cool throughout the day.

Over or under dressing is not a concern at Indy 500
The race itself was purely amazing. I understand why someone handed me ear plugs. You need them. The cars create a constant vibrating roaring hum that only slows during a caution flag. Fans cheer each lap jumping from their seats fanning the cars in the appropriate direction towards the finish. It’s hard to not be excited but I was reserving my strength for end when we had to make our way back to our friends shop. Elbow to elbow people lined the streets cheering, singing, dancing and creating quite the party atmosphere.

Just a few thousand of our closest friends
Our Indy 500 was a 16-hour day complete with a 2-hour drive home. Thankfully we got a ride back to our car to avoid a short but dangerous bike ride back. The boyfriend slept as his nerves had bent to the end from all the people, fried foods, and the over stimulation of various fashion choices ranging from casual to "oh-my-goodness-why-are-you-wearing-that-in-public." If we were going to make it to an Indy 500....this was the one to go to. We have agreed that in the future should we attend another Indy 500, we will make some fashion adjustments.

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