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Crystal Lake Ice Oval

Greetings from Forest City, Iowa…I think

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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Crystal Lake Ice Oval

Ice oval

 Lifetime Track #2,416

 

 

The EventVideo PlusPhotos

 

 

THE EVENT

I have had the opportunity to follow my trackchasing hobby all over the world.  As this is written I have seen racing in 77 countries.  My lifetime track total is just over 2,400. Tonight I was seeing racing at my 88th different ice track in 18 states, provinces and countries.  Long ago I wrapped up seeing racing in every American state.

 

 

Some twelve years ago I moved into the “World’s #1 Trackchasing” spot.  Of course, that’s if that title is awarded to the person who has seen the most lifetime tracks.  Frankly, I don’t think it should be.   Maybe “Most Prolific Trackchaser” is a better description for that category.

 

 

The World’s #1 Trackchaser title should be bestowed on the person who has seen the most racing in the most countries.  That’s what the “world” is made up of isn’t it?  Countries!

 

 

Once in a while I get shut out when I try to visit a track. That happened to me at Crystal Lake in 2017. However, when that happens I don’t give up on the track or the people. I know the people are doing the best that they can. They want to put on a good show. Oftentimes when I do visit a track and can’t count it for whatever reason I’ll be back the very next week. It took me a year to get back to Crystal Lake…but I went back.

 

 

It’s important to note that my hobby is not only about racing.  Yes, that is one part of it.  However, of equal importance are the logistics of trackchasing (getting from point A to B to C, etc.) and the opportunity to see the world.

 

 

I live in Southern California.  The vast majority of tracks in the U.S. are located in the Midwest and East.  It takes a good deal of logistical planning to get from where I live to where the tracks are.  A typical weekend trip within the U.S. will cover more than 5,000 air and driving miles.  I do about forty of those trips each year.  For the past 15 years I have traveled about 175 nights each and every year.  Surprisingly to some, more than half of those overnights were not part of trackchasing.

 

 

A big part of trackchasing for me is simply travel just for the fun of seeing new things.  You won’t want to miss my “Trackchasing Tourist Attractions” page or my “Sports Spectating Resume” page on my website at www.randylewis.org.  Search around on my site.  Use the drop-down menus.  They will take you all over the world!  My site will give you some understanding on how important seeing the world and just “seeing stuff” is with my trackchasing hobby.

 

 

Today’s adventure was one more of the 2,000 trips that have taken me up, down and around the long and dusty trackchasing trail.  If you would like to see where I’ve been and experience those adventures here’s the link:

 

 

Randy’s Complete Track List

 

 

If you’ve got a question, comment or whatever please leave it at the bottom of this report.  It’s very easy to do.  Or you can visit me on Facebook.  Thanks!

 

 

Randy on Facebook

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

 

 

Saturday, February 3, 2018.

 

 

My visit to the Crystal Lake Ice Oval was the second half of a day/night ice racing trackchasing double. In the afternoon I had seen the racing on the Peterson Lake Ice Oval in Swede Grove, Minnesota. If you missed that Trackchaser Report here’s a link:

 

 

Ice racing from the cold, snowy and windy Midwest….Minnesota!

 

 

I get a lot of cooperation from race promoters. As I was driving down to today’s Hawkeye state based ice track I got a message from track promoter Jr. Schleuger. Jr. told me that if I got there in time I could ride along with his dad Shep during hot laps. Shep drives UTVs aka SXSs (side by sides) on the ice ovals of Iowa. He got fourth in the big show last week on East Okoboji Lake in Okoboji, Iowa.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

Crystal Lake Ice Oval – Forest City, Iowa

I’m always up for anything at least once. I told Jr. to count me in if I could make it in time. I pulled into Crystal Lake the town at 6:04 p.m. I parked out along the road overlooking the lake. There were several cars parked there. Remember, I have been here once before so I knew my way around just a little bit.

 

 

When I arrived the temperature was about 25°. For ice racing that’s warm. However, the winds were gusting to 26 MPH. As the temperature began to drop throughout the night the wind kept up. The lowest “feels like“ temperature I saw on my weather app tonight was three degrees. That’s coolish.

 

 

When you visit Crystal Lake you cannot miss, even after dark, the HUGE Bullhead statue. Crystal Lake truly is home to the largest bullhead in the world.

 

 

I had wisely put my “ice grippers” on over my size 14 REI purchased winter boots. A huge thank you to Wendy Hurst for the ice gripper recommendation. It makes a world of difference on the slick stuff.

 

 

When I got into the pit area I soon found Jr. He introduced me to his dad, Shep. I confirmed I was 100% up for doing a “ride along” during the SXS hot laps.

 

 

There were a few last-minute details. I need to be “fitted” with a helmet. That was pretty easy. We simply asked one of the big guys hanging around the race trailer for his helmet. It was a close enough fit.

 

 

I like to dress for winter weather with a lot of layers. Obviously with the race helmet on my stocking cap had to be ditched. I really wanted to be able to put my snow goggles over the helmet. However, with it being the last minute they wouldn’t fit.  They got ditched too.

 

 

I’m going to tell you this. When we pulled onto the starting grid we had to wait about five minutes while the track was being plowed. We were facing directly into the oncoming north wind. I had no I protection for my face. The four-degree “feels like” temperature with spitting snow felt like I was being pelted with BBs.

 

 
I had noticed that a few of Shep’s buddies were kind of smiling and nudging each other in the ribs. They were telling Shep to give this California suburban slicker the “ride of his life”. I did confirm with Shep while we were waiting at the starting line, getting ready to go, that he didn’t expect to kill me. That was most encouraging news.

 

 

I was seated in the passenger seat with only an automobile like seatbelt and shoulder belt. I had my helmet on. And I had my iPhone. My job was going to be to record the hot lap session.

 

 

The longer we waited the more the anticipation increased. I wanted to make some small talk but not sound like a babbling California suburban slicker. I said something to Shep. I don’t remember what it was. He simply replied, “Yep” and continued staring straight ahead.

 

 

Folks, I had done a little race car driving myself. The operative word is probably “little”. I got my first chance at a race in Turlock, England. My most viewed YouTube video, out of more than 1,100, shows me driving at an ice race in Wisconsin. Here’s the link to that one:

 

 

Racing from the Upper Red Lake Ice Track, Gresham, Wisconsin

 

 

You might be interested to know that the last race I competed in, over at the Millard County Raceway in Utah had me taking the “A” main. To top it off that race was televised!! Here’s the link to that video:

 

 

Millard County Raceway – Delta, Utah

 

 

Probably the fastest ride along I ever had (Carol did the same thing!) was in a two-seated sprint car in New Zealand. This was a sprinter with the seats situated side by side not one behind the other. Tonight’s ride was just as fast.

 

 

Tonight there were five side-by-side‘s in attendance. For the hot laps all five racers lined up side-by-side, no pun intended. At the drop of a green flag all five drivers accelerated like they were in an Oklahoma land rush. It was kind of like the ride at Knott’s Berry Farm that seems to shoot you out of a cannon.

 

 

I was sort of hoping that Shep would be toward the back of the back so I could get the other racers in the frame. I figured that might add a little drama to the video. I didn’t mention my idea to him. He didn’t fall behind either. He took the lead and off we went on a whirlwind icy cold set of five hot laps around the 1/5-mile ice oval. I had a huge smile across my frost-bit face when the starter threw the checkered over the hot lap session.

 

 

I’m going to guess that Apple computer’s Steve Jobs, the inventor of the iPhone, never went to an ice race in his life. If he had then the iPhone wouldn’t shut down in extreme cold. I’ve had my phone turn off at ice races before. That happens most often when there is a strong wind accompanying cold temperatures.

 

 

Yes, you should know that an iPhone will shut itself down in extremely cold or extremely hot weather. To give you an idea of how cold and windy it was my iPhone turned itself off some 42 seconds into the ride. That was about two laps of track time. I wish it had gone further.

 

 

Nevertheless, you’ll get some idea of what it was like (but certainly not the full effect) to ride shotgun for some really fast and cold hot laps. Once the iPhone did shut down I put it my pocket and held on for dear life…..and had the time of my life. I think Shep would tell you that I held my own under the conditions.

 

 

On the one hand, I think it would have been a lot of fun to have been behind three or four of tonight‘s side-by-side racers. However, Shep did remind me that if we had been behind those guys the ice dust would have been so heavy that the entire video would’ve been a fog. He makes a good point. Nevertheless, I had fun. I am an adventure vacationer. If you read the tales of other trackchasers you won’t see anything or read anything like the stuff I get to do. I’m very lucky in that regard.

 

 

Tonight‘s main racing classes would be quads, motorcycles and the side by sides. I had three different ways that I could watch the racing tonight.

 

 

I could walk all the way back to my car and watch the racing from a good distance. That didn’t seem like a good idea. I could wander around the pits moving in and out of Jr.’s. heated trailer. That didn’t seem like a good idea either. Wandering around the pits in this weather was a recipe for disaster.

 

 

I chose the third and best option in my opinion. I walked off the lake and out onto the road to get my rental car. Then I drove it back onto the lake. If you work for National Car Rental and have any major heartburn over this remember I’m a good customer of yours. I’ve rented well over 1,000 cars from you.

 

 

I found a really good parking spot out by turn four. For the rest of the evening I watched the races from my car. When the bigger race events came onto the track I stood outside and got some good video of the race action.

 

 

The hot laps started at about 6 p.m. The final race wrapped up at a couple of minutes past 9 p.m. For the feature races the side-by-sides were divided into turbo class and the non-turbo classes. During the night one of the five side-by-sides broke. That meant that there were two racers in each of the side-by-side feature divisions.

 

 

By the way I’m told the non-turbos have about 110 horsepower. The turbo 900s, using a three-cylinder engine, generate 170 HP or more. Remember, I’m a finance guy. I don’t know what much of the first part of this paragraph really means!
It took me 69 years to see my first ever ice race in Iowa. Then just a week later I was seeing my second one. When it rains it pours!

 

 

I was rooting for a fellow by the name of Andy Beenken in the non-turbo division. I had talked with Andy last weekend in Okoboji. He was driving car #1,000 last week. This week his car was number zero. I’m not sure what prompted the change. Unfortunately Andy had a mechanical problem that knocked them out of the race.

 

 

I’m happy to report that my hot lap driver, Shep, won the turbo feature race. He was aided somewhat by a broken belt from his fellow competitor’s machine. Nevertheless, I’m confident he would have won his race anyway.
The racer counts were not large tonight. There were probably about 20 competitors in total maybe a few more. There were quite a few fans watching the races from their cars.

 

 

I think with the proper degree of organization these classes and this type of racing could be very big in Iowa. It depends on the ice. It depends on the organization. It depends on the money part of it. I almost think the weather is the biggest potential detriment.

 

 

When the races were over I wasn’t sure they were over. I was parked out in the far reaches of turn four. When I saw one of the course workers wrapping up the yellow caution tape I knew that tonight‘s program was finished.

 

 

Before I left the track I had a chance to talk to my new buddy Andy. He was putting the finishing touches on getting his car number zero on the trailer. Despite a feels like temperature of 3° Andy came over to my car and talked to me for several minutes. People in Iowa do things like that. Iowa folks are nice. Andy, liked how I trackchase in America’s small towns and give drivers recognition, which they don’t get all that much.

 

 

Now virtually everyone, except the track officials, had left the ice and were headed for home. I drove by Junior Schleuger’s trailer to say thank you, but he was still out of the course cleaning things up.

 

 

I did get a chance to talk with Shep, Jr’s dad. He was interested in how I paid for all of this. Lots of people are. He was pretty amazed at the places that I go to do my trackchasing. I told him, like I tell everyone else, that I had a good paying job when I was working, I saved my money and now I’m spending it. It isn’t any more complicated than that.

 

 

I also mentioned to both Andy and Shep the concept of “NIMS” people. There truly is a noticeable difference when you visit places like Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. I’m not sure if you lived here you would notice it or not. You probably would. It definitely is true. The nicest folks in the country live in these for states.

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

My original trackchasing plan for this weekend called for me to drive overnight after tonight‘s racing in Iowa to Chicago. That would’ve been a six-hour drive. I needed to be over at Chicago’s O’Hare airport by no later than 4:30 a.m. in order to catch a 6 a.m. flight to the Northeast.

 

 

At the last minute the race group I wanted to see in New York changed venues. Now there was no great reason for me to go to New York tomorrow. If they had raced I would’ve shown up. However, it wasn’t the end of the world because it saved me from having to drive six hours overnight. Yes, that was probably a good thing.

 

 

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl. It’s being held in Minneapolis. The temperature in the cities tomorrow is supposed to be 6°. If all goes well I’ll be flying out of Minneapolis a few hours before the game back toward SoCal. Of course if I had a ticket to the game I would love to attend.

 

 

Just two days after I get back from Minneapolis Carol and I will be heading to New Orleans, Louisiana. We’re going down for four days and three nights of Mardi Gras celebrations. I can do that trip including hotels, airfare, transportation and food for less than one of the least expensive Super Bowl tickets will cost. I’ll have more fun at Mardi Gras with Carol as well.

 

 

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Tonight I’m staying at a Rodeway Inn in Austin, Minnesota. I’ll get about eight hours of good sleep and then be off for a 100-mile drive north to Minneapolis tomorrow morning.

 

 

Good evening from the icy and snowy and windy Crystal Lake…er…Forrest city, Iowa. Yes, I’m going with Forest City.

 

 

Randy Lewis – 77 countries – 2,416 tracks.

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 4, 2018.

 

 

I made some good non-racing decisions on this trip and some bad ones too. When I went to choose my rental car at the National Car Rental location at the Minneapolis airport I picked out a Nissan Maxima. National must have gotten a good deal on Maximas. They have a lot of lately. They’re not a bad car.

 

 

A minor drawback to the Minneapolis National Car Rental pickup area is that it is not heated. Not having heat in Minneapolis in the winter can be a problem. I loaded all of my gear in a Nissan Maxima. Then I noticed the Maxima sitting next to the Maxima that I had picked.

 

 

The Maxima I had chosen did not have heated seats. The one I did not choose did have heated seats. That meant a quick reshuffling of gear to the car that would warm my butt for the rest of the trip. And warm my butt it did. If you want an instant heat sauna I recommend the heated seats of the Nissan Maxima. By the way you can see the hood latch isn’t working in the photo above. I tried to shut it but couldn’t. I figured the engine could “breathe” a little better this way!

 

 

Not all of the decisions I made were good. This is not unusual. When I checked into my hotel last night in Austin, Minnesota they didn’t have a reservation for me. I knew I had made one.

 

 

It turns out I had mistakenly made my reservation for Friday night and not tonight, which was Saturday night. Therefore I was a no-show on Friday. Much to my amazement the hotel manager told me he had waived the charges last night when I didn’t show up. He had every right to charge me and I’m not really sure why he didn’t. I guess I’m just lucky.

 

 

Now it was Saturday night the night before the Super Bowl. I was only an hour and a half from Minneapolis. Hotel rooms in Minneapolis were pretty much going for $500 and up. Would the Rodeway Inn and Suites in Austin have a room for me and at what price? The answer was yes and the price was only 60 bucks plus tax. I guess I got lucky again.

 

 

I would have a 100-mile drive up to the Minneapolis airport this morning. The temperature was pretty much locked in at 4 degrees below zero. I couldn’t get the rental car’s heater to warm me up at any temperature less than 100°! When I turned off the heater completely the car immediately went into icebox mode and the windshield began to fog over. No, they never tell you about this in trackchasing school.

 

 

Of course I was flying standby out of Minneapolis on Super Bowl Sunday when the Super Bowl was in Minneapolis. That doesn’t sound that easy does it? I pretty much figured out I would either get home at four this afternoon or at about 2 a.m. Monday morning. I was rooting for Sunday afternoon.

 

 

I drove through Blooming Prairie, Minnesota this morning. BP is the last location of my nine career speeding tickets. I got that one at midnight in 2003 doing forty in a thirty. Ever since then I go out of my way to watch my speed when I enter these little towns. Nevertheless, when that 30 MPH speed limit sign showed up this morning I was still doing 36. Some people never learn.

 

 

 

 

Iowa

 

 

The Hawkeye state

This evening I saw racing at my 110th lifetime track in the Hawkeye state, yes, the Hawkeye state.  I hold the #1 trackchasing ranking in Iowa.  I’ve seen110 or more tracks in three different states.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,

 

Randy Lewis

World’s #1 Trackchaser

Peoria Old Timers Racing Club (P.O.R.C.) Hall of Fame Member

Iowa happenings:   Where To Find A Double Ferris Wheel And A Cow Made Of Butter?

 

The answer, as any Iowan will tell you, is the Iowa State Fair, one of the biggest in the country with one of the world’s largest livestock shows—among these other attractions, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUICK FACTS

 

 

LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS 

The three most important trackchasing comparisons to me are:

 

Total lifetime tracks seen

Total “trackchasing countries” seen

Lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

 

Total Lifetime Tracks

There are no trackchasers currently within 600 tracks of my lifetime total.  Don’t blame me.

 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 2,416

 

 

Total Trackchasing Countries

There are no trackchasers currently within 20 countries of my lifetime total. 

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 77

 

 

 

Current lifetime National Geographic Diversity results

 

  1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 4.14

 

 

 

That’s all folks!  Official end of the RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report

 

 

Click on the link below to see the video production from the racing action today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on the link below for a photo album from today’s trackchasing day.  You can view the album slide by slide or click on the “slide show” icon for a self-guided tour of today’s trackchasing adventure.

 

 

 

Night time ice racing from Crystal Lake in….Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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