The Mad Belgian goes Can-am - part 2
- Hello colleagues,
Here's part two of my recent North American adventures.
DAY 4: MONDAY, JULY 8
No races scheduled today. Time to get into tourist mode. Ever since KLM refused to honour its contract by not letting us get on a flight I had paid for three months earlier, Aline is more than reluctant to fly. I do admit that I also try to be at any airport at least three hours before my flight is due to take off in order to avoid a repeat of the KLM incident. As Aline lets me travel as much as I want, she expects a little present when I return. She's much into jewellery and thus, I have to be inspired enough to bring her something she likes. Guy Smith had suggested to try Montréal for Aline's present, but I wasn't keen on driving into town. Instead, I headed for the quaint little town of Lachute and that proved to be a wise decision. En route I stopped at the Saint Eustache Wal-Mart and stocked up on new clothing items. I got six long sleeve shirts, two pairs of trousers, a belt and three pairs of shoes for the price I would get two pairs of shoes for at home. And once arrived at Lachute, I not only found a jewellery item Aline was very pleased with, but next to the jeweller was a record shop where I purchased several French Canadian CD's and also 3 CD's of my all time favourite Canadian band The Barenaked Ladies. Don't be fooled by their name, they are just a group of witty men serving excellent tongue in cheek pop music. I'm not the only trackchaser who is a fan of them, Guy Smith and Mike Knappenberger are as well. Last but not least, I had a nice salmon lunch in the Lachute town centre, astonishingly only my second hot meal, bar a few breakfast omelettes.
States visited: none
Canadian provinces visited: QC
Number of new tracks on the day: 0
Total number of new tracks: 5
DAY 5: TUESDAY, JULY 9
The motel I stayed in at Saint Eustache served a very nice breakfast and for the second day running, I took more than enough time to indulge in it. After all, I only had a very short drive to Cornwall. It was a scorching hot day and the day before, I had seen on the news that a torrential downpour had caused severe flooding in Toronto. But there was no sign of that in the Cornwall town centre. I had lunch at a Japanese - Thai all you can eat restaurant. The food was very good, but some people took the "All you can eat"-tag a bit too litteral. They ordered enormous amounts of food and finished by not eating about one third of it. After lunch, I found refuge in the aptly named Monte Carlo Motel, which had only one inconvenient aspect, it was the Cornwall motel the furthest from the track. But still, it only meant a 15 minute drive (which could have been a lot shorter, but for road works). When I parked my hire car on the far end of the track's parking space and walked up to the black Ford Focus with Pennsylvania licence plate parked next to the ticket booth, I knew Guy Smith had arrived already. Getting to join him was more difficult than expected, because what should have been the paddock looked more like the Florida everglades. But by tip-toeing around the far side of the paddock I managed to arrive at the small grandstand, where I finally met Rick Young and also the aforementioned Guy Smith. It was nice to at last been able to talk to Rick in person, after the numerous mail conversations we had in the past. The Cornwall Raceway Park track is a nice little track adjacent to the Cornwall Speedway, but the weather conditions of the previous day made the running difficult for the various kart classes. The fields were skinny, but the Dirt Demons, the feature class for which Guy and I made the trip, coped a lot better with the conditions than any other class. They looked and behaved like mildly scaled down crosskarts and there's nothing wrong with that. And both the organisers and the participants deserve a round of applause, for I'm sure many other tracks would have cancelled due to the flooding of a large part of the paddock. After the first final Guy gave me the complementary National Speedway Directory that Tim Frost was so generous to offer me. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Tim Frost for this.
States visited: none
Canadian provinces visited: QC, ON
Number of new tracks on the day: 1
Total number of new tracks: 6
DAY 6: WEDNESDAY, JULY 10
The first five days of my trip had been very nice and very leisurely. From now on, I would have to drive a fair bit more if I wanted to get new tracks on my list. My day started not too good. I need to have breakfast in order to take my hypertension medicine. Unfortunately the least horrible option was to take a big breakfast at McDonalds. In a distant past, I drank a glass of orange juice with that, but I'm not allowed to do that any more. So I had to opt for a coffee. Well, I can only say that it was the most appallingly tasting coloured water I drank in years. I just waited for it to cool down enough to help it swallow my medicine, before dumping the almost full cup where it belonged: in the thrash container. At the Cornwall track, Guy, Rick and I had talked about the best choice for crossing over into the USA. I had previously consulted Rand McNally and their website suggested Ogdensburg. Guy usually uses the 1,000 Islands crossing. Rick confirmed that Ogdensburg was the easiest alternative. Rick and Rand McNally were spot on. It was the first time I entered the USA by land since the electronic visa waiver procedure is in vigour and because there was only one car in front of me, it only took a delay of about 10 minutes to get all formalities done. That's faster than at airports, but it did cost me $6 while in airports it's for free. The USA welcoming committee consisted of a heavy shower, just minutes after entering the country. That put me a little behind schedule, but everything went reasonably smooth until Scranton. There I had two options. I could stay on I81 or take the Penna Turnpike until Allentown. Because I was not ahead of schedule, I opted for the shorter Turnpike route and that was a major mistake. First I had to stop three times at toll boots within minutes of each other to pay twice $1 and once $6.25. Wonder why all that hassle was good for. When I passed that hurdle I had to deal with slow single lane traffic at interminable road work sites. To cut a long story short, I arrived at Allentown during the evening rush hour. As I was going to start a tour with Mike Knappenberger the next day, I wanted to find a place to stay near his house at Reading. That took me another hour, but I finally made it to my evening entertainment at the Kutztown Fairgrounds somewhere around 7.15 p.m.
The best thing about this meeting was to sit with two well known friends (Guy and Mike) as well as with two colleagues I met for the first time: Guy's aunt Virginia Schuler and Chris Tyrrel. It's great to see that at her age, Guy's aunt still has the energy to go to races. Moreover, we have already worked together to give the Smiths a large taste of European racing: she looks after the cats and I look after Guy and Pam on their European tours. It was also nice to meet a former road course racer like Chris. We found out we both admired Sir Stirling Moss a lot as well, both as a driver and as a human being. As for the races, bar some bizarre restart decisions, they weren't bad at all, but Mike and the other regular visitors regretted the fact they enlarged and banked the track to accommodate the not too nimble SpeedSTR's.
States visited: NY, PA
Canadian provinces visited: ON
Number of new tracks on the day: 1
Total number of new tracks: 7
DAY 7: THURSDAY, JULY 11
The start of phase 2 of the trip. For the first six days my trip had been a classic one band one, although I had the excellent company of fellow trackchasers on 3 of my 7 tracks. For the next five days I would reform a trackchasing duo that worked wonders last October by teaming up again with the Man of Steel himself: Mike Knappenberger. Mike is an avid user of GPS technology and he brought that into the team. And that GPS would play a major role immediately. As Mike punched in the address of the Thompson International Speedway, he switched off a filter for avoiding toll roads. The device promptly put us on expensive toll roads around New York City. But it wasn't all bad, for we moved on well and we had a great view of the NYC skyline. The view of the 10 mile long traffic jam in the other direction was also somewhat interesting. Once out of the NYC traffic trouble, Mike found us a very nice Italian restaurant. When arriving at the rather rural location of the Thompson International Raceway, he also found us an interesting Motel6 in the greater Boston area. It was the most upmarket Motel6 I ever stayed in, a real match for much higher ranked motel chains.
The racing at the Thompson International Speedway started rather early. I liked the large pictures on canvas that were hung behind the grandstands and that gave an idea of the past of this historic track. The fields weren't always large enough for such a long track, but the racing was excellent. What was even better was that Bruce Spencer joined us at the beginning of the meeting. He's another of those nice colleague trackchasers and I was delighted to meet him. The meeting was held in a very professional way, with good commentary, no intermissions and few yellow flags. Why can't any promoter do such a good job?
States visited: PA, NJ, NY, CT, MA
Canadian provinces visited: none
Number of new tracks on the day: 1
Total number of new tracks: 8
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