Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Daytona 500 Road Trip Recap

What are we willing to do to pursue the things we love? In my case, I was willing to drive solo 2,047 miles on a round trip to the Daytona 500 to have the chance to shoot the race at this legendary cathedral of speed. It's hard to believe that it has already been a week since I was there and I am still trying to process all that happened during the trip. When I made the decision to go, I had major doubts about whether I would be able to handle such a long trip driving on my own. I love to travel and I really love to drive, but this trip tested me in ways I could not have foreseen beforehand. All's well that ends well and while I was not in a position to produce photos that Associated Press wanted to put on the wire, I still shot nearly 2900 images from Friday through Sunday and am pleased with the work I was able to do. The slideshow with this post includes scenes from the road trip and the racetrack and are in addition to the slideshows I posted previously about the weekend's three race events themselves.

I told the AP person in charge to put me wherever they needed me and brought back pictures of what was available from my viewpoint. Having shot the Indy 500 since 1984, it was odd being a Daytona 500"rookie" shooter and as the weekend went along, I asked myself several times why I had never gone down there before this year. I did not have a good answer. One word describes my trip however: surreal. I left Indy on a Thursday morning after my class at Marian University and the next morning I was standing on the beach in St. Augustine, Florida. The trip back gave me a similar feeling as most of it was during the night, and I only stopped for breaks, fuel and a couple of catnaps on the road. Nineteen hours after leaving Daytona International Speedway, I was back home in Indy, bedraggled but happy that my '99 Integra got me there and back safely.

The most fun I had during the trip involved technology and social media. I posted like crazy on my Twitter account, posted mobile blog notes here and kept a chatter going on Facebook whenever I could. When I got home, I saw that I had done nearly 25 blog posts, including three race reports with photos. I'm not sure who (if anyone) took the time to wade through them all, but I sure had fun doing them!

Scroll down past the slideshow for a few other random thoughts from the trip:

I love the whistle the AEM cold air intake makes on my Integra under acceleration. She turned over 189,000 miles on the odometer this trip.

Bullitt County, Kentucky had me thinking of Steve McQueen, Mustangs and Chargers.

The "See Rock City", "Ruby Falls" and "Lookout Mountain" signs seemed to be everywhere in Tennessee. I recall as a kid these signs were mostly painted on barns but billboard proliferation has apparently replaced most of those. I prefer the barn signs.

The steep, sweeping turn near Monteagle, Tennessee southbound was a sight to behold. I can't imagine driving that in an 18 wheeler. And how do they make brown asphalt in Tennessee? I saw it all over the place around Chattanooga.

Rolling into Georgia and then hitting Atlanta at 6 pm was no picnic. I loved all the pine trees along I-75, but why in the world do they need so many double decker billboards along the interstate? They were a major distraction, especially at night when they were all lit up and hundreds of feet off the ground, poking up above the tree lines.

I found plenty of towns that ended in "-ville" along the way and my favorite was Maxville, Florida. There's a Maxville, Indiana too.

What was everyone burning in Georgia and Florida? It smelled like campfires everywhere. That might explain the "FOG SMOKE" signs in Florida.

I loved the drive on I-10 and I-95 at night in Florida. No billboards. Driving through a canyon of pine trees in the darkness. The hum of my Integra's Magnaflow exhaust with the cruise control set and the music blasting. This is why I love to drive.

On the way back, I stopped outside of Jacksonville at a "Race Trac" convenience store to get fuel and a black guy in a big SUV asked "You got a price on that car?" I wasn't sure what he said at first but my response was "Nah. She's got almost 190,000 miles and is just getting broken in." He responded "That's a sweet car!" I'm thinking the same thing and got back on the road laughing about the encounter.

I turned the counter over for the second time on my Canon 7D during the weekend. That means over 20,000 images since I bought it last April, the majority taken at races.

On the topic of towns ending in "-ville", I'm not sure I would want to live in Barneyville, Georgia, although I am sure it's a nice town. I couldn't help it when images of purple dinosaurs and Don Knotts flashed through my mind though. Glad I am back in Indiana-ville! Now I can plan the next race trip and I am no longer a Daytona 500 rookie.

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