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The Mad Belgian goes Can-Am - part 5

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  • Vanden Eynde Roland
    Hello colleagues, Just one last little effort and I will no longer bother you with long travelogues for the rest of August. DAY 16: SATURDAY, JULY 20 After the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2013
      Hello colleagues,

      Just one last little effort and I will no longer bother you with long travelogues for the rest of August.

      DAY 16: SATURDAY, JULY 20

      After the rainy end of Friday, Saturday dawned bright and sunny again, at least in Athens. Guy joined me for breakfast and gave me a bit more information on what to put into Mike's GPS for our Sunday meeting in Pittsburgh. On my way to the shores of Lake Erie, I had a nice veal scaloppini lunch in a small Italian restaurant. But I was in for a nasty surprise when I asked for an espresso to finish off my meal. They didn't have that. Luckily, I found the next best option, a Starbucks, just down the road. However, it would be a day full of unpleasant surprises. The first one was a heavy downpour in Columbus, not long after lunch. My next one was in the Amherst Days Inn. I was checked in by a bossy arrogant young lady full of tattoos. When I entered my room it looked like a battlefield. The sheets and towels of the previous day lay on the floor with the thrash can in the middle of the pile. When I went back to the reception to ask for a room that was cleaned, she pretended she told me they were still doing the rooms. That was a blatant lie. When I replied there was no cleaning crew to be seen anywhere on the premises, she said I shouldn't complain, because it was only 35 minutes after check in time and that I had to wait. I asked her to cancel my transaction and I went to the adjacent Motel6 where I did get a clean room right away, and for $45 less than at the Days Inn. Two hours later, when I turned into the Sandusky Speedway parking lot, I was in for another surprise. The part nearest to the track was transformed into a lake. I saw water from that parking lot run onto the track. So, instead of watching a number of heats at Sandusky, before driving half an hour to see some features at Lorain County Speedway, I spent the entire evening at the latter. It's by far the friendliest track I visited. The people at the ticket booth gave me a nice "welcome" before handing me my ticket, the young man controlling the tickets said "enjoy the races" and the very competent commentator, mingling with the spectators in the grandstand thanked all of us for coming out in such large numbers on a day with iffy weather. It seems the drivers had been more reluctant because in the first two categories (of which one was the Late Models), there were only two starters. Fortunately, the Modifieds had a field of over 20. The meeting was conducted with quiet efficiency and in very good spirits. Even when two Modified drivers lost their temper after been put in the wall due to blatant errors of others, they were quick to keep those drivers away from their nemesis. They also reduced the Late Models feature to 10 laps. And last but not least two very unusual facts. They haven't had a rainout in two and a half years and they had the most eclectic public of any track: lots of young children, lots of elderly people and everything in between, including quite a number of black people.

      States visited: OH
      Canadian provinces visited: none
      Number of new tracks on the day: 1
      Total number of new tracks: 12

      DAY 17: SUNDAY, JULY 21

      Together with Mont Tremblant, the Schenley Park historic meeting in this Pittsburgh public park was the most important one of my schedule. Thanks to friends of Pam, a parking spot only yards away from the starting line was kept for me. At times like these, I both praised and hated Mike's GPS. First I liked it because I would never have found the general direction to the park without it, then I hated it because it insisted on using the race track to get to the required address. I asked an official for directions and he had a detailed street map of the area. I wrote down his directions and ignored the instructions of Mike's device, until they were in line with the ones the official gave me. In the end I met Pam and Guy, got my parking spot and headed for Schenley Park. We took a shady spot near the pre grid and only minutes later the owner of the GPS I was using came to meet us, accompanied by soon to become trackchaser colleague Jeff Sands. The entire meeting reminded me of that wonderful experience I had when attending a race at Dublin's Phoenix Park. Both were meetings in a public park, with "old style" safety measures (straw bales and concrete blocks). A bonus over its Irish ancestor is that Schenley Park is far from flat and the difficult first uphill turn was in itself enough reason to cross the Atlantic for. And it was also more than nice to see that race 3 was won by Liam Dwyer, an Afghanistan veteran who lost part of his legs while on duty. And he won that in a car without hand controls. A splendid performance.
      After a nice tour of the paddock, I took leave of Pam and Guy and headed straight up north to the Eriez Speedway. I had been rained out there once already and I didn't have such fond memories of the Travelodge near the track. As this meeting was labelled Kids Night, I hoped they would start early. They did. There were a lot of different classes, but all cars looked vaguely similar from the outside. Still, most fields were large enough to have some nice heats. When at about 8.15 p.m., they held an intermission and would put on various attractions for the kids, I drove off and got as far as Jamestown, the birthplace of Lucille Ball. I checked in at the Comfort Inn and although I was hungry, I took a few minutes to look at the information map in my room. It had a leaflet of an upscale Italian restaurant: La Scale (the staircase). There I had a more than excellent haddock dinner with a very good glass of white wine. No rewards for guessing what they answered to my question about espresso. You're all correct, they didn't have any. The only blot on an otherwise perfect copybook of my last North American trackchasing day.

      States visited: OH, PA, NY
      Canadian provinces visited: none
      Number of new tracks on the day: 2
      Total number of new tracks: 14

      DAY 18: MONDAY, JULY 22

      If I started early enough and rushed a bit, I could see an evening meeting at the Autodrôme Drummond. However, I was on a nostalgia tour, as the New York Southern Tier had been the area in which I spent my very first day ever in the USA in July 1994. It was great to pass through Corning and Elmira again and to drive in the beautiful Finger Lake area. This time I wanted a new border experience and I crossed into Canada at 1,000 Islands. It was scenic and rather fast. I stayed at the Brockville Quality Inn. Together with La Quinta, they provide the best value for money on the motel front, and the one in Brockville was no exception. I dined on another haddock variation in the Brockville marina area. It was good, but not as good as the Jamestown one. After dinner, I took a stroll round the nicely signposted marina walk. One thing I never really could understand is that many people park their cars, open the window and stare at something. Is there a law preventing them from taking a walk or are they just anti-social? Anyway, I liked Brockville and I hope to return there in the future to score both of its tracks.

      States visited: NY
      Canadian provinces visited: ON
      Number of new tracks on the day: 0
      Total number of new tracks: 14

      DAY 19: TUESDAY, JULY 23

      I didn't leave Canada a minute too early for during my drive from Brockville to Montréal, the weather steadily worsened. My last 10 miles were again driven in torrential rain. When I got hold of my hire car, it had 488 km on the clock, I added 8,414 (a bit over 5,200 miles) to it. The flight back to Brussels was very pleasant and by 8.15 a.m. I was home again.

      States visited: none
      Canadian provinces visited: ON, QC
      Number of new tracks on the day: 0
      Total number of new tracks: 14

      EPILOGUE

      Bar one unfriendly motel clerk at Amherst, I only met nice and helpful people on this trip. I discovered the pleasant Beauce region of Québec and I liked the countryside and the small cities in upstate New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The holiday part of the trip was a great success and so was the racing. First and foremost, it's the first time that during a holiday trip I saw more race meetings in the good company of one or more of you than I did on my own. I had the pleasure to team up with Mike again and to attend meetings with Pam, Guy and Will. But better still was being able to meet Rick Young, Virginia Schuler, Chris Tyrrel, Bruce Spencer, Rick Schneider and Jeff Sands for the first time. There was also not one race meeting that was worse than I expected it to be. I don't think the mix can get any better than this.

      There is only one thing I'm a bit astonished about. Why am I the most prolific trackchaser in both the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland and even more bizarre, how did I ever end up in the top 10 in the Québec standings and not that far from the Canadian top 10 as well? I wonder what keeps our British colleagues from checking out the outstanding Irish racing scene more extensively and the bulk of my American ones of sampling the not even hidden Canadian treasures at their doorstep. Is it fear for the unknown, the idea that these people don't like foreigners or whatever. Anyway, if you don't try, you'll never know and you'll go on living blissfully unaware of all the fabulous tracks and racing very near you. Don't let a Mad Belgian take centre stage in Canada. Go out and beat him fair and square.

      Roland

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