Thursday, June 10, 2010

The long and winding road, part 3

In which your humble author returns to a familiar road. Catch up if necessary with parts one and two.

Day 5, no driving

Sunday, the day in the past that marked our collective return to our homes (before we realized that spending most of the weekend on the road was no fun), the day that now represents the relaxing wrap-up after the locals have gone home. We clean up, put most things back in order, eat more food, watch the races, eat more food, and then eat.

No, really. One of the "problems" in the past was that apparently there were too many leftovers after the guests departed, so now we "have" to eat more food before we leave. (Of course, when they prepare extra food on Sunday, that makes our jobs more difficult. This time it was some kind of Thai dish. Very tasty.)

Now, you might think that there would be few things I'd enjoy more than watching a four-hour race, but you would be wrong for two reasons. One is that I really don't enjoy racing that much. I don't know why, it's just not my thing.

(warning: peeve alert.) The other is that for some reason, most networks (ABC in particular) seem to think that you only really want to watch about 30% of the race, so they show you a few laps, shrink the screen and mute the race to show you a commercial, go to a full-screen commercial, and then cut back to live action after they missed a crash or a key pass or something. They then repeat this process about 50 times.

Imagine watching a football game this way. How many times would you bother? Once or twice, maybe, and that would be it. Better yet, imagine watching soccer that way. (If you're old enough, you don't have to imagine. ESPN used to do that for World Cup matches until irate fans pointed out to them that you don't do it that way. This was back when ESPN thought it knew everything about sports. What's that? Oh, never mind.) It doesn't help that Tony George pretty much killed open-wheel racing several years ago, so the sport itself (even the race) doesn't have the allure it has 20 or 30 or 40 years ago.

So we sat through most of the race, then I drove my friend and his wife to the airport to drop her off (they had separate flights because, well, it's a long story and not mine to tell). We got back in time for the next race (second verse, same as the first) and resumed our places. (Mine was in front of my laptop, naturally. With the internet confusion cleared up, I was alternating between my baseball sim and various Facebook things, mostly Castle Age. Are you in my army yet?)

As the evening wore on, we switched from unexciting NASCAR to the wonders of DVR, watching the cult classic Superbad. (Yes, I know it's hardly old enough to earn "cult classic" status, but it's really the only type of praise it deserves. It's dumb but funny.) As an added bonus, we tried to match people at the party to characters in the movie. Well, okay, maybe just to Seth and Evan. But it worked.

"Seth" was easy to match, in part because he, too, was stumbling drunk. (In the old days, we basically had a race to drunk to see who won, and usually nobody did. Now, some don't drink at all, and most others don't get too drunk. The exceptions are usually locals who don't know any better. We may not drink heavily, but we can make sure you do.) He was also clumsily blunt with many, many thoughts ... it was rather entertaining to listen to him throw out compliments that weren't even left-handed.

The catch to that part of the story was that he had a 5:55 AM flight on Monday. There were several jokes about who would get him to the airport in time to catch his flight (surprisingly, while a taxi was mentioned frequently, it did not win) and even a couple of thoughts that perhaps he wouldn't even make it onto the flight. ("Seth" is a tall, heavy guy. He's also not necessarily the kind of guy who would be a low-key drunk at an airport. We wouldn't have been surprised if security had told him to take a seat for 4-6 hours.) Apparently, he made it ... my only concern was making it clear I wasn't going to be taking him. I had enough driving to do the next day, thank you very much.

Back to the hotel for the final night ...

Day 6: Richmond to Indy, about 615 miles

I get up, pack up my things, head out to the car (did I mention how much I love express checkout? there is nothing like avoiding the clueless people at the front desk; usually I mean the people checking out, but not always), and back to the house. I normally go home from the hotel, but this time I decided to max out time with my friends.

Everything was in order when I arrived. "Seth" had been successfully delivered to the airport, presumably made his flight, and we could focus on, well, not much of anything. TCM was showing The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, a classic Spaghetti Western, so I stayed to watch that, and then after lunch (glad I stayed to eat some tasty grilled hot dogs rather than eating on the road), the rest of us travelers packed our cars and headed our separate ways (some to North Carolina, some to the western side of Virginia, and me to old familiar I-64).

The interstate was just as I remembered it, and I settled in for the drive I'd done a few times in the past ... although this time, the stop-every-hour trick made it much more bearable. My GPS didn't catch on to the US-35 trick because, well, the DVD is old and doesn't know about the construction in West Virginia, but it figured things out soon enough.

Unfortunately, I didn't get quite the weather I wanted. There was a bit of rain as I was traveling west, so I had to turn on the defroster at times, and that knocked quite a bit off my mileage. (I got 55.7 mpg on the Altoona-to-Boston leg and 55.0 on the Boston-to-Richmond leg. Yep. Take that, BP.) Fortunately, a semi led me through the two-lane section in WV, and once we were on the divided-highway part that goes through southeast Ohio, everything was fine.

I got home pretty late – very late, in fact, about 3 AM, mostly because of my unwillingness to leave – but it wasn't a big deal. After all, the cats were well-fed, the house was still without AC, and I didn't have to get up for work the next day.

Even as a consultant, I knew to take the next day off. Sure, I can drive 2500 miles in six days, but I need some time to catch up afterward. A man's got to know his limitations.

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