What a weeekend! It is Tuesday, and I am still recovering from the fantabulous time I had with Jamie and Tiff. We managed to get a lot in to two days. I found them to be a hoot to be around, and willing to do just about anything we could do in San Francisco (except that Tiff wouldn't cross the Golden Gate Bridge).
The race was amazingly fun. I'd forgotten just how loud and exciting it is at a live race. TV doesn't do it any justice whatsoever.
I really got this whole "Summer of Turning Thirty" (that's what I'm calling it) off to a great start...and this kind of fun was exactly what I needed after this last school year. I hardly know where to begin...so I suppose chronological order is best.
1. The City By The Bay
I met the girls at their hotel in Vallejo, where they were just getting some breakfast. After a few minutes, we were ready to get on our way. Neither of them had ever really been to San Francisco (Jamie's flown into it, but that doesn't count), so I was excited to show them this amazing city.
I've been prepping Tiff for the Bay Bridge for at least a month prior to our trip. Tiff doesn't like bridges over large bodies of water, but going around the south end of the San Francisco Bay was out of the question--it would put us at least three hours out of our way.
At roughly 8.4 miles in length, it's not a small bridge, but fortunately it is wide (five lanes across, with west-bound traffic on top and east-bound traffic on the bottom) and there is Yerba Buena island in the middle to break up that whole "driving over water" anxiety.
I'm happy to report that Tiff did very well, and was even able to enjoy the incredible views of the city and the bay as we drove in.
We started our tour of the city by finding our way to the Embarcadero (bayfront road) and heading to Pier 39. One of my favorite things to do in San Francisco--totally touristy but loads of fun--is to pay a visit to the famous sea lions of Pier 39.
I figured they would just humor me, but it turns out that Jamie and Tiff loved them as much as I do--to the point where Jamie bought herself a stuffed sea lion that barks! We spent some time watching and laughing at their antics before setting off to explore Pier 39.
View from Pier 39:
Artichoke plant next to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co:
Jamie and Tiff try Forrest's shoes on for size (the pic that Tiff took of me apparently didn't take, but Jamie got one on her camera):
Next, we walked to Fisherman's Wharf, stopping to enjoy the delightful aroma of fresh sourdough bread (best in the world!!) being baked:
After wandering that area, we decided it was time to drive to The Haight. But first, we made an illegal left turn (I took some flak from a traffic patrol person for this--oops! My bad) onto the World's Crookedest Street, Lombard. My cheeks were still burning, but Jamie and Tiff were getting a big kick out of driving down the zig-zag city block.
If you're not familiar with the Haight, just think "Summer of Love." It was at the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street that that infamous time really began.
Today the Haight is less groovy and more modern-urban-hippie. In other words, it's got a lot of free trade, eco-friendly type places. There were many, many displaced teenagers wearing all black, multiple body piercings, and walking dogs (it seemed they all had dogs, anyway). Flowy skirts were everywhere. Not a lot of tie-dye, though.
The famous Victorian architecture:
We ate lunch at a Thai restaurant before heading back to the car for our next adventure--the "gayborhood."
The Castro neighborhood of San Francisco is known as being the place where LGBT people gather. I was driving, so I only got one picture (as we waited at a red light). Jamie and Tiff got more, especially of the prominent rainbow flags flying everywhere.
Our plan after driving through the Castro section was to head down to the Presidio to enjoy the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Being who I am...we got lost. Turned around. You can't count on me to have an inner compass, because I simply do not.
After a little while, and a great tour of the less touristy, more residential parts of San Francisco, we found ourselves at Folsom Street, which I know for fact goes to the business district. From there, we found our way back to the Embarcadero, and I set out on a course to get us to the Presidio.
Tiff handled the Bay Bridge very well, but there was no way she was going across the Golden Gate, so we contented ourselves with seeing it in all its glory from below.
There was a wedding party taking pictures, and the bride looked so pretty:
There were two insane surfers surfing way too close to the rocks for my comfort:
Tiff, Yours Truly, Jamie:
A father teaching his son to skip rocks:
After this, we drove through the streets of San Francisco some more, finding our way to China Town, and then it was back to the Bay Bridge. As we left the city, I suggested showing them the not-so-great city of Antioch. Both Jamie and Tiff agreed that they'd love to see the armpit of California, and they would especially like to meet the famous Millennium Joy.
And so we found ourselves in Antioch, where we checked out the racing news on my computer and got a brief glimpse of the World's Cutest Calico before she ran under the bed.
After this, it was back to the hotel in Vallejo, where I was kindly offered a place to sleep so I wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive there before the race.
I've only been to one other live race before Sunday, and that was this same race at Infineon in 2002. Back then, I was still relatively new to the whole NASCAR thing, and while I did have a Pit Road Tour, I didn't know where to go or what to do to meet drivers. Jamie and Tiff, however, are experts.
We arrived at the track at about 9:00, and set out, as fast as we could, to find Robby Gordon's merchandise hauler. He was scheduled to arrive at 10:00 to sign autographs. Jamie and Tiff are big fans, and they've even met him before, but this was a big first for me.
On our way to the hauler, we stopped at a fence near pit road, because there was Junior's pit box!
While waiting in line at Robby's hauler, I got some good views of the track.
Turn 2 and the stands where we would be sitting waaayyy back there:
Before Robby arrived, we saw Brian Vickers signing autographs at his hauler:
One thing about a NASCAR race--everyone is pretty friendly. While we waited, we got talking with several people. In front of us was a father and his son (maybe 8-10 years old). The boy had several autographs on his hat, and he was super-excited to meet another driver. It's obvious he and his dad have fun going to races together, and it was sweet to see them. We talked about Dale Jr.'s move to Hendrick this year (they're Jeff Gordon fans) and we chatted with another Junior fan who was in front of them.
Behind us in line was a nice couple. The husband turned out to be someone Jamie and Tiff know from a Robby Gordon fan site, but here's the kicker--he's from Antioch! I heard him mention living near Mount Diablo, so I said, "Hey, what town?" He replied, "Antioch," and I said, "No kidding! Me too!" Small world.
Finally, Robby arrived, giving us all high-fives as he walked to his hauler.
His golf cart (with all-terrain tires!):
Me with a real, honest-to-God NASCAR driver (he was distracted by someone with a video camera):
After meeting Robby, we got a picture of A.J. Almendigger signing autographs:
As we walked back across the track towards our seats at Turn 2, we saw one of the prerace shows being taped:
The view from our seats:
Silly girl (wearing green!):
The pre-race festivities were awesome. There was a group of L-39s doing an air show, which this retired Air Force Brat loved.
A skydiver with the American Flag:
But I was really looking forward to the Big Show.
My camera is really slow, so I decided to take videos of the driver intros and the first lap of the race.
Here's the Jumbotron as Junior was being introduced (behind my own screaming and giggling, listen to that crowd!):
A few minutes later, as the pole sitter, Kasey Kahne, was being introduced, Junior came around the track in the back of a pickup. Again, here the crowd (and my own giggling--that's the first time I've ever seen Junior live):
Finally--FINALLY!!--it was time for the race to start. I had forgotten how LOUD those engines are, and just how thrilling it is to sit there as they rumble by. Television does it no justice, and neither does a Kodak EasyShare...but nonetheless, I got a video:
A close-up of Junior's 88 National Guard car:
The race was pretty single-file, with very few leader changes. We were disappointed to see Robby spin out after earning a top-ten starting spot. Junior stayed in the top 15 most of the day, but it was obvious from the little talking he did on his radio that he was not enjoying himself (for those of you who are my non-NASCAR-fan friends...it is no secret that Junior is not a big fan of Infineon racing).
That was another thrill--listening to the scanner chatter. There wasn't much of it, because Junior had his hands full turning right for a change, and the race was so single-file, his spotter had very little to say. But I did get to hear him drop the f-bomb--twice!--and I did have some entertaining moments to listen to.
The best radio chatter moments:
1. Whining about something NASCAR had done: "That's f***in' NASCAR."
2. Whining about nother NASCAR decision: "This is the f***in' WWF."
3. During the late-race red-flag for track clean-up, Junior and his crew cheif, Tony Jr., were discussing why they'd been stopped. At this point, it was clear that Junior was going to win the post-race dash to the airport. Tony Jr. informed him that NASCAR was cleaning some oil off the track. Junior replied, "There's no oil." A few minutes later, Tony Jr. came back on, letting Junior know that they were almost finished cleaning up that oil. The reply was a terse, pouty, "I don't see any oil." I was cracking up. On this blog, it doesn't look funny, but if you could have heard his tone of voice...
Vile Kyle Busch (everyone's favorite anti-hero of NASCAR) won the race. I don't hate him like some do, but I think he's not always the safest guy out there. He has some growing up to do, for sure. But this didn't stop me from getting a picture of him talking to the guys of NASCAR Victory Lane on the Speed Channel, when I got a glimpse of it:
All in all, it was a great day. Exciting, exhausting, and fun. It was great to spend the weekend with Jamie and Tiff, and I hope to go to another race with them one day. Tiff lives near Indianapolis, so...who knows?