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Greetings from Allentown, Pennsylvania

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From the travels and adventures of the 

“World’s #1 Trackchaser”

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 Lifetime Track #2,408

 

 

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.  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!

 

 

Tonight, it was time to see some indoor racing. That was a good thing. The temperature was four degrees outside!  This had already been a great touring weekend with my visit to West Point.  Now…let’s get some racing in the books.

 

 

By the way 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

 

 

Wednesday January 3, 2017

 

 

If you’re going to travel as much as I do you’re going to want to have systems in place to make the process as clean, comfortable and concise as possible.  One of those systems for me is the government’s Global Entry program.

 

 

Global Entry is really two programs.  First, it allows travelers to clear U.S. customs quickly when returning from a foreign country.  That’s a good thing but it’s not the best part of Global Entry.

 

 

The real benefit to Global Entry, in my opinion, is the TSA pre-check program.  I fly a couple hundred times each year.  TSA pre-check allows me to get into the shortest line of travelers attempting to clear airport security.  Then I get special treatment.  Who doesn’t like special treatment?  What special treatment?  I don’t have to take my computer out of the bag, take my shoes off, take my jacket off or take liquids out of my luggage either. I love it.  I often breeze through airport security in less than a minute.

 

 

Membership in the Global Entry program lasts for five years.  It costs $100.  For the benefits included it pays for itself many times over.

 

 

At the end of the five-year period a renewal process has to be completed and another $100 check sent to the government.  I’ve got to tell you the Global Entry website is not very intuitive.  It’s downright awful.

 

 

Once I figured it all out I had to set an appointment to meet with a U.S. customs official.  They would “reapprove me” at this meeting.  I couldn’t get an appointment for more than three months.

 

 

On Wednesday of this week it was time for me to go to the meeting.  It wasn’t going to be convenient by any means.  I would have to drive to LAX.  That meant a 130-mile round-trip drive in fairly heavy morning rush-hour traffic.  I don’t mind driving to LAX for a trackchasing trip or a tour of the world somewhere.  However, for this type of meeting, I wasn’t looking forward to the drive.

 

 

It took me the better part of two hours to get up to LAX in the morning.  I don’t normally make this drive in mid-morning.  Of course, I couldn’t arrive late or miss the appointment.  That meant I had to arrive early wasting even more of my time.  I don’t like to have others waste my time.  If I waste it that’s O.K.

 

 

Once I was called into the meeting they a look at my passport and my driver’s license.  The officer took my fingerprints and asked me about three questions.  I was out of there in less than four minutes.  I tried to point out, in a nice fashion, this was a complete waste of time for what they had done.  Trying to get that point across was a little bit like walking on egg shells.  Sometimes when people say or do stuff that is poorly thought out it’s better to let it lay and move on down the road.

 

 

At least I have my Global Entry benefits for another five years.  The process is sort of like a colonoscopy. You don’t really want to do it you have to.

 

 

What added insult to injury on this particular subject was Carol’s five-year renewal was up as well.  The government did not require that she attend an appointment for renewal.  They simply processed her application all over the internet.  In reality, I did everything for Carol online and got her approval no appointment required.  As they say no good deed goes on punished!

 

 

I just got back from a trackchasing trip in Australia three days ago.  Now I was headed eastward into the teeth of a massive snowstorm.  First, I would see racing Allentown, Pennsylvania and then Grey Eagle, Minnesota.

 

 

Racing tonight would take place indoors in Allentown, Pennsylvania on Saturday night.  The ice racing competition in Grey Eagle, Minnesota would be held on a frozen lake on Sunday afternoon.  If I had wanted to simply go out, see a couple races and get back home as quickly as possible I could have left on Saturday morning.  I would likely have been home on Sunday night.

 

 

Whenever I can I like to see Trackchasing Tourist Attractions in addition to the actual racing events that I attend.  There’s a lot to see everywhere I go.

 

 

I had a great TTA in mind for this trip.  I was going to go to the United States Military Academy and see a basketball game in West Point, New York.  When that plan firmed up I added a tour of the West Point post (campus) to the agenda.  All of that was going to be fun.  I would leave on Friday morning a day early to make it all happen.

 

 

In order to make the Friday morning part of the trip work I would have to leave my house at 3 a.m.  I didn’t care much for that idea.  Then when the massive east coast snowstorm hit I had to change that plan to make sure I didn’t get shut out.

 

 

All of the Los Angeles to Boston flights were canceled because of the snow.  Lots of flights to New York were canceled as well.  I looked up and down the eastern seaboard at the major airports that I might be able to use.  In addition to Boston and New York, that included Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia.

 

 

After considering my options, on a standby airline basis, I decided to leave late Thursday night.  In reality leaving late Thursday was only leaving about six or seven hours sooner than if I had flown out early on Friday morning.

 

 

 

Thursday January 4, 2017

 

 

When big weather problems hit the airline system it really jumbles things up.  Flights get canceled.  Flights are delayed.  Connecting passengers don’t make their connections.  Some people just give up and don’t want to fly during bad weather.  All of that makes the strategic planning of which flight to standby for a real gamble.

 

 

I got up to the airport at 7 p.m. on Thursday night.  I had three flights in mind.  They all were essentially booked full.  If I didn’t make any of them I guessed I could sleep at the airport and try for something in the morning.

 

 

I love the standby game, but I can understand why lots of people would not.  As good luck and clean living would have it I made the flight from Los Angeles to Baltimore.  It would leave LAX at about 9 p.m. and get into Baltimore the next day, Friday morning, at 5 p.m.  I was on the plane.  I was all settled in a middle seat.  I was simply happy to have gotten on the plane.

 

 

At about this time I was summoned by the flight attendants to come to the front of the plane.  What did they have in mind?  The flight attendants had a first-class seat for me.  I was being upgraded to first class on a flight that I wasn’t even sure I would make to begin with!  They served a light meal and this I watched movies on their movie player for most of the rest of the flight.

 

 

 

Friday January 5, 2017

 

 

I commonly say that I have flown on an airplane every week since the age of 23.  Not only have I done that, I have probably flown on three or four flights or more every week since I was 23.

 

 

This morning something happened for the very first time in all of my flight experiences.  What could that possibly be?  As we were about to land the flight attendants instructed everyone to remain in their seats after the plane landed.

 

 

We were told that passengers in rows 32, 33 and 34, the last rows on the plane, would deplane first.  Everyone else needed to sit tight.  The flight attendant said it was because of a “weight and balance” issue.  I had no idea what she could have meant by that.

 

 

I have encountered “weight and balance” issues as regards the number of passengers a plane will accept before. When the plane has a lot of cargo or if the temperatures are extremely warm it takes more power and fuel for the plane to take off and fly.  In situations like this a plane may depart with several empty seats.  Today we were taking a precaution against “tipping”.  If they don’t have the right equipment in place the plane can tip as seen above.  Until J.J. explained this to me I had never hear of airplane “tipping”.

 

 

I had experienced the weight and balance situation one late night in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  As a standby passenger, I had boarded the plane and been lucky enough to get a business class seat for the long ride back to the U.S.  Then the pilot reconsidered things.  At the very last minute, after we were in our seats, the three last-minute standby passengers (including me!) were removed from the plane because of “weight and balance” issues.

 

 

It is a very rare circumstance when I am allowed to board the plane as a standby passenger then asked to leave the plane.  This made for a very long night in the Buenos Aires airport.  I had to be readmitted to the country (passport wise), which was a major hassle since they thought everyone for the night had already left the country.  I had to wait a full 24 hours for the next flight to leave without any certainty that I would be able to get on it.  No, I do not trackchase like anyone else.  I do not travel like anyone you are likely to know.

 

 

We landed at 4:45 a.m.  I had a rental car reservation for the next two days.  On Sunday morning, I would have to return my car by 5:30-6 a.m.  In order to avoid an extra day’s rental car charge I would have to wait to pick up my rental car this morning by about an hour.  There was no problem with that.  I simply found three seats that I could lay down, locked up all of my equipment and slept for an hour. I could use it.

 

 

The Baltimore Washington international airport (BWI) has one of those annoyingly long rental car shuttle bus rides.  I prefer renting cars in an airport where I can simply walk to the car from the terminal.  That’s not how they do it in Baltimore.

 

 

I am executive elite member of the National Car Rental frequent renter program.  Why is that?  I rent a lot of cars from National!  What’s the benefit?  I am allowed to choose any car in the full-sized or smaller categories.  Usually that’s a choice of 25-50 cars. Today they had a series of Cadillac STS’ in the executive row.  I haven’t seen Caddies there in a very very long time.  I grabbed a big black Cadillac and off I went on a four hour drive up to Fishkill, New York.

 

 

I’ve got to be honest with you.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I’m not judging anyone or their life situations.  I wear shorts and T-shirts more than 99 percent of the time when I’m in and around our modest seaside cottage in San Clemente, California. Today when I landed in Baltimore, Maryland it was 10°.  I’ll be ice racing on Sunday and it’s been well below zero every night in Grey Eagle, Minnesota for nearly a month.

 

 

How in the world do people live in climates like this? Who would choose to live in an ice box for three or four months out of the year or more?

 

 

I grew up near Peoria, Illinois.  Peoria has one of the harshest climates in the continental United States. Not only is a frigid icebox in the winter but it is a sweltering sweat box for a few weeks each summer.  Right now, I’m not even considering some of the worst days of the year each spring and fall when it’s 40 degrees with a 25 MPH wind and spitting rain!

 

 

As a young boy when I lived in East Peoria, Illinois I didn’t pine for Southern California.  Why not? Because when I lived in Illinois, Southern California was not even on my radar. I had never experienced the beautiful weather of Southern California. To be frank, I didn’t know what I was missing.

 

 

Now in an age of cable TV, the internet and commercial aviation most people DO know what the alternative is to their frigid ice box living conditions and horrifically terrible climates.  I’ve mentioned this over the past years especially during the winter time.  People of the Northeast and Midwest it’s time.  You need to get out. Get out while you can.  I’ll help you.

 

 

If you come to California I’ll give you donuts and coffee.  Maybe I can come through, if the demand isn’t too high, with a place to sleep for a night or two while you get your act together and successfully relocate to Southern California.  

 

 

I know.  You’re saying to yourself, “Things sure are expensive in Southern California”?  You are correct. There have been so many people from the Northeast and Midwest that have already said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more”.  They moved to California. The demand is high in California because of all the people who have moved to the Golden State.  They did it to escape the oppressive outer Mongolia type climate.  If you live within the sound of the PPL Center you need to make a change. You can do this. You really can DO this. Do it now. Free coffee and donuts on the other end.

 

 

I had flown overnight from Los Angeles, landing in Baltimore at 5 a.m.  I was headed to West Point, New York.  That was a four-hour drive away.  Since I had all day to make that drive I stopped a couple times at interstate rest areas to nap.  Yes, I set my Apple iPhone alarm so that I wouldn’t freeze to death.
I had my tollway transponder with me.  That’s awfully handy. When driving along the East Coast one can really rack up the tolls.  During today’s trip, I crossed the George Washington Bridge.  Any ideas on what that cost me?  How does 15 bucks USD sound?  It didn’t sound that great to me. For the most part, we don’t have tolls in California.  That’s why we call our major roads “freeways”. I did stop at one toll plaza for lunch.  I ordered just one item from the menu.  It was a full-sized cinnamon roll from Cinnabon.  I haven’t had one of those in years.  It was most tasty.

 

 

Back in 1979-80 our family lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  I had been promoted from Southern California to Connecticut with our home office being in Wilton, Connecticut. Back in those days “business” was done a little bit differently.  When someone was offered a promotion they normally accepted on the spot or at most took a weekend to think about it.  Then the person being promoted and their spouse, which was typically their wife back in the day, would go out for a three-day house hunting trip.  In most cases it was expected and usually accomplished to make an offer on a house during that one and only three-day visit. That’s how we did it on all of our several relocations during my business career.

 

 

We bought a beautiful new home back in 1979 in Ridgefield for $207,000.  Back in 1979 that was a lot of money.  Our kids were eight months, 2 1/2 and five. Can you imagine traveling all the way across the country to a place you knew nothing about, buying a house over a three-day weekend and then moving your family on about 4-6 week’s notice with three small children all five and under?  Yep.  That’s how we did it back in the day.

 

 

We only lived in Ridgefield Connecticut for 15 months. Then I was promoted and we relocated to the greater Chicagoland area.  We would stay there for three years before requesting/demanding a move to the West Coast.  We have lived in California now, our second time in the Golden State, since 1983.

 

I have a habit, whenever I am in the area, of going back to take a look at the homes we’ve lived in over the years.  Since Ridgefield wasn’t too far out of the way today I took a side trip back to see our old house. We lived at 55 Deer Hill Drive in Ridgefield.  It’s a quaint little New England community.  Our house was on a dead-end road in a very picturesque rural setting.
In Ridgefield, we lived on two acres. During the summer time our lot was so wooded we couldn’t see a single neighbor in any direction. During the winter time, I only saw my house in the daylight on weekends.  I would leave for work before the sun came up and never got home until it was dark. Yep. That’s how we did it back in the day.

 

 

The traffic driving up from Baltimore past Philadelphia and New York wasn’t all that bad.  I figured that yesterday’s snowstorm might have kept a few people home from work today.  Despite the general area getting from 6-18 inches of snow the roads were perfectly clear.  I was surprised at that as well.

 

 

I made a quick pass through Ridgefield. I went out and took a couple of photographs of our old house. The roads weren’t plowed very well on Deer Hill Drive. As a matter fact, as I tried to pass our old house the National Car Rental Racing Cadillac STS couldn’t get enough grip to go back up the hill. I had to back down slowly and make a three point turn out of what used to be our old driveway!  I had a brand-new Cadillac Sedan DeVille when I lived in Ridgefield.  With a diesel engine, it didn’t do well.  It was the worst car I ever owned by a longshot.  I guess Cadillacs and Ridgefield and me don’t do well.

 

 

There was one other thing about moving from California to Connecticut and then Chicago, for a period of about four years, that was a major concern.  We feared California real estate would appreciate more than properties in the Midwest and east.

 

 

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say we sold our home for $200,000 in California and four years later it was worth $350,000.  Then let’s say that we bought houses in Connecticut and Illinois for an average price of $200,000 and sold at the end for $250,000.  If, at that point, we wanted to move back to California we would have the money from a $250,000 house but the house we left was now valued at $350,000.  We might not be able to afford the same house we could afford and lived in four years ago!!  We were scared to death that could happen to us!  Luckily, from 1979-1983 price appreciation was about the same in Connecticut, Illinois and California.

 

 

I told you we bought our home in Connecticut for $207,000 USD in 1979.  It was brand new.  If you check Zillow.com you will see this very same home sold for $775,000 in 2015.  That might seem like a lot of appreciation.  It’s not!  In San Clemente, $775,000 won’t buy you much.  Our homes since we moved back to California in 1983 have appreciated dramatically more than if we had stayed in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  They say timing is everything.  We escaped that bullet!

 

 

Now back to trackchasing…..I made a hotel reservation in a place called Fishkill, New York.  What a name.  That doesn’t sound very romantic.

 

 

I used Priceline.com to get to tonight’s hotel.  In hindsight, it might have been better to go through Booking.com.  That would give me better access to small older motels in West Point, New York itself. Fishkill was about 20-25 miles from West Point. With two visits to West Point on my weekend agenda that poor planning gave me nearly 100 miles of extra driving.

 

 

All during the time that we lived in Richfield, Connecticut, again we only lived there for 15 months, I never knew that West Point was only 37 miles away. Had I realized that we probably would have visited at least to pick up a college football game or maybe a basketball game. It’s just that we were living on the East Coast for such a short time that it was hard to fit everything in.

 

 

After having flown overnight in the Baltimore I needed to take a series of naps during the day. I’ve found this a very successful way to get acclimated to the new time zone after not getting much sleep on overnight flight. I took a half hour nap every two or three or four hours. There was just enough time to check into my hotel and take one more final one hour nap before tonight’s Trackchasing Tourist Attraction.

 

 

At 7 p.m. I hoped to be inside the Christl Arena at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The Army Black Knights were hosting the Bucknell Bisons in a Division I college basketball game.

 

 

It was dark when I reached the West Point post. The word “post” would be replaced by the word” campus” if you were visiting UCLA or Northern Illinois University. There were two levels of security I needed to clear. However, all I needed to do to make that happen was show my driver’s license. That didn’t seem like all that much security given the times that we live in.

 

 

The Christl Arena opened in 1985.  It cost $16 million USD to build. The place seats 5,043 people.  The arena is named after 1st Lieutenant Edward C. Christl Jr. ’44, a former basketball captain who was killed in combat in Austria during World War II.

 

 

Honestly, I didn’t know that smaller white people played college basketball anymore. They do for Army. One little fella scored 26 points. Great job by that cadet. Nevertheless, it was not the Black Knight’s night. Bucknell went on to win the game by score of 83-66. I enjoyed texting West Point grad Frank Eich with updates during the game.

 

 

Yes, I could have just flown to the east coast on Saturday morning and seen my race in Allentown on Saturday night to begin this trip. However, I thought it was more than worthwhile to leave late Thursday night, land on Friday morning and be here in time to catch a Friday night basketball game. It took a little more effort but I thought the reward was worth it.

 

 

Not only was I able to see the basketball game on Friday night but I also scheduled a formal tour of the West Point post for Saturday morning. In a short time, I would be able to get a good exposure to the USMA. If you’ve never done it I highly recommend the experience.

 

 

 

Saturday, January 6, 2017.

 

Today I will begin my official 2018 trackchasing season. As I mention often trackchasing for me is a three-legged stool. Yes, there is racing. Additionally, trackchasing offers challenging logistical experiments and the ability to see local attractions wherever I might be visiting.

 

 

By staying in a strategically selected location near West Point, New York I was in for another touring opportunity this morning. I made a reservation a few days ago and paid the $16 touring fee online so that I could visit the United States Military Academy.

 

 

 

I have had the privilege of knowing two United States Military Academy grads. Before I ever set foot on the post at West Point I had a ton of respect for both Frank Eich, class of 1972, and Rich Lewis class of about 35 years later. After touring the USMA my level of respect for these two gentlemen is even greater, if that is possible. I can imagine in my mind the experiences these two fellows had during their four years at West Point. Good job men. No… Great job men!

 

 

Today’s West Point tour guide had been very knowledgeable. Did you know that there are only five five-star generals in the entire history of the entire army dating back to the George Washington days? Can you name at least a couple? The answer appears at the bottom of this Trackchaser Report.

 

 

Yesterday, I had received an email from the office at West Point with some news about today’s tour. They told me that because the cold weather the portion of the tour normally held outside was being abandoned. That was a bummer.

 

 

Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist asking the tour guide if she would allow us, on a volunteer basis, to step out of the bus for just a moment at those places where they were no longer planning to do so.  If you don’t ask you don’t get.

 

 

The tour guide seemed to be an overly cautious woman. Overall, I’m not a very cautious person myself and don’t really value the cautiousness of others. I see that trait as indecision and an unwillingness to enjoy what life has to offer.

 

 

I convinced her to let us out, again on a volunteer basis, at Trophy Point to enjoy the view and take some photos. When the bus stopped and she gave her cautionary cold weather tale to the entire group no one seemed to take it too seriously. Almost everyone poured out the bus to take their photos albeit in cold and windy weather.

 

 

We were also allowed to leave the bus to take a tour inside the West Point Chapel. Our guide told us that although few West Point students were Jewish they enjoyed attending the Jewish church services. For the longest time chapel attendance was mandatory. The Jewish service came at a much more convenient time than the others. That’s why it was so popular.  I wonder if they ever converted anyone?

 

 

Like I say if you’ve never toured West Point and you are in the area I would highly recommend a stop. I enjoyed myself so much I want to come back for a football game and bring Carol along for a tour during the warmer months.

 

 

As I left West Point the low fuel light on the National Car Rental Racing Cadillac STS was going brightly. I needed fuel and I needed it soon. I don’t think this Cadillac is giving me the best fuel mileage I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t even say the ride is that great. However, you should know that I have a bias against Cadillac. I had a brand-new one and it was the worst new-car experience I’ve ever had.

 

 

I had seen a Chinese restaurant on Main Street in West Point as I pulled into the tourist center to begin this morning’s visit. It looked like it would be a great place for lunch. However, when the restaurant’s Yelp waiting turned out to be 1.5 stars I knew I couldn’t bring myself to darken their door. I took the easy way out. I checked my smart phone’s McDonald’s app and soon found myself dining on a couple of McGriddles for the price of one.

 

 

From West Point, New York I needed to make a two-hour drive down to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Tonight’s automobile racing at the PPL Center was to begin at 7 p.m. My Waze GPS system told me that I would be arriving into the general area at about 4 p.m.

 

 

Since that was way too early to go to the races I needed to fill some time elsewhere. It was also four degrees outside so I wasn’t going to be doing any powerwalking. That’s when I came up with the idea to see a movie.

 

 

I have Moviepass. Did you know the new Moviepass program has attracted more than 1 million subscribers in the last four months? What are YOU waiting for?

 

 

I used my Fandango smart phone app to find out what movies were playing as well as when and where. I soon found myself in a movie parking lot in Allentown getting ready to see the movie quote “The Disaster Artist”. It was certainly quirky. It was entertaining on an unusual level and probably the best use of my time for two hours at this particular point.

 

 

I will say I was not very impressed with how the movie theater was selling their tickets tonight.  Everyone had to stand in one line.  That one line was used for both refreshment buying and getting movie tickets.

 

 

That meant a family of five might buy their tickets but ALSO be getting five servings of buttered popcorn and five drinks etc. It took a LONG time to get to the front of that line just to get my one single ticket. Of course, using Moviepass, there was no charge for my movie ticket. I’ve only had Moviepass for a few weeks and it has already paid for itself. Now for the next 10+ months every movie I see will be at no additional charge. Moviepass is one of the most fantastic programs I’ve ever seen.

 

 

During the movie, I got a call from racing buddy Paul Weisel. We were planning to see each other at the races tonight. Of course, I couldn’t take his call because I was watching a movie.

 

 

When I got out of the film I saw the “missed call” from Paul. I didn’t give a lot of thought. Paul doesn’t text. I figured Paul called just to confirm I reach the general Allentown area.

 

 

In reality, Paul was calling to tell me that he had a free ticket reserved for me. I wish I had known that but the number of people who call me rather than text with information such as this can be counted on one finger.  Who used their phone for telephone calls nowadays?

 

 

Let me be clear. I am not throwing Paul under the technology bus. I very much appreciated his offer of the free ticket. Nevertheless, it would do my heart good if Paul could get on the texting bandwagon. I fear he has signed on to the “I’ve learned all I can with technology and I’m riding it out from here bandwagon”. I can only hope.

 

 

By the way I normally text Carol at least five times a day and that’s WHEN we’re both in our modest seaside cottage at the same time! I probably send texts 50 times or more for every single phone call I make.  Texting is for when you have a short message to relay like, “Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket for you”.  Just sayin’. Testing saves time and gets the message across. If I had to talk to someone on the phone every time they had a short message to send to me or me to them I would be on the phone more than 24 hours a day.  I really don’t know how I lived life before texting came into existence.  One more thing….when texting first came in vogue I had a golfing buddy say, “Texting is just for young girls”. Old age will come soon enough.  One doesn’t have to project their fuddydoesism.

 

 

 

THE RACING

 

 

PPL Center – Allentown, Pennsylvania

It was only about a 12-minute drive over the PPL Center from the movie theater. I found some parking about 500 yards from the arena. The sign said they were charging just six dollars. I didn’t think that was too bad considering we were in the middle of downtown Allentown and near their major sports arena. What was surprising was that when I got out of the races there was no one there to take my money. That meant I parked for free.

 

 

After seeing the movie, I didn’t get into the arena until about 7:15 p.m. Racing was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. The cheapest ticket available was priced at $29 dollars USD. That was little pricey but then I’m sure it’s fairly expensive to rent the arena and organize an event like this.

 

 

I wasn’t too impressed with the entry to the arena.  I had parked over on the north side of the place.  There was a “Northwest” entrance but it wasn’t open to the public.  I had to walk around nearly the entire PPL Center to find where they were selling tickets.  The weather outside would make Alaska seem like Miami Beach.  Then after I BOUGHT my ticket I had to go outside AGAIN so I could go inside to pass through the metal detectors.  Crazy right!

 

 

The PPL center opened in late 2014. It’s one of the very nicest indoor arenas that I’ve seen where auto racing is held. In a way, it reminded me of the Honda Center in Anaheim, California albeit on a smaller scale. The arena had a lot of nice amenities. I was impressed with it. Of course, concession prices at places like this are out of sight.

 

 

I use a bottle of water as a standard pricing measurement to compare pricing from one location to the next. If I were to go to an outdoor short track racing event a bottle of water might sell for a dollar on the low side and probably not any higher than two dollars. Tonight, a bottled water was $3.50 at the PPL Center. A bottled soda with for $4.50.

 

 

Later in the night I would pick the only item that I thought was close to being a decent value. That was a pretty good hotdog for four bucks. I smothered it in mustard.  That was my “liquid” for the night.

 

 

A few weeks ago, I went to the Trenton, New Jersey indoor race with Paul Weisel.  The same people who promoted the race in Trenton, were promoting tonight’s race in Allentown and a race next month in Albany, New York.  

 

 

The racing program in New Jersey was absolutely horrendous. They had a yellow flag stoppage about every two or three racing laps all night. I didn’t stay for the entire program. I value my time more than that. Nevertheless, on that night in Trenton I counted well over 100 yellow flag delays. In my opinion, it was a disaster.

 

 

On the other hand, let’s think about it this way. Pennsylvania probably has the most ardent racing fans of any location in the country. Pennsylvania also has a very harsh weather climate. It was 4° outside. I’m sure the wind chill temperature was below zero. You add all of that together and an indoor auto racing program in January, when there’s nothing else to do, is actually a pretty good thing.

 

 

Nevertheless, they don’t come anywhere close to selling out these arenas. I estimated tonight’s crowd at about one-third of the arena’s 8,420-person seating capacity. Again, a crowd of 2,500 isn’t bad it just doesn’t look all that great in a large arena.

 

 

My ticket had me sitting in section 210 which sits high above the racing surface overlooking turns three and four. I wouldn’t normally sit in a location like this for any other short track oval racing. However, Paul Weisel turned me onto the idea for these indoor shows. For a little track like this is a very good viewing location.

 

 

When I entered the arena, there was no racing going on. I wondered why? That’s when I saw a racing driver being administered to by medical personnel near the start/finish line. This delay went on for several minutes until he was removed on a backboard.

 

 

I would later learn this was the second heat race of the night. Was I going to be in for another night of yellow flag contagion like I had witnessed in Trenton, New Jersey?

 

 

During the first two heat races that I actually saw there were 15 caution flags. I am not exaggerating. There were 15 caution flags in the first two heat races I saw. I came very close to walking out the door at that point.  I did not want to see another hundred plus yellow flags like I had in Trenton. Later in the evening the guys in the men’s restroom were complaining about the yellow flag stoppages.

 

 

If Paul Weisel were a texter I would have texted him with my disappointment. Since he doesn’t text I phoned him!  I suspect our phone conversation was the only phone conversation between one fan and another fan at the PPL Center all night. I yelled into my phone as soon as Paul answered. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore”. Paul didn’t know what to say. I didn’t blame him. It wasn’t his fault. But I had to yell at someone and he was only a phone call away.

 

 

Tonight, there were two racing classes competing. The headliner division was The TQ midgets. They had enough cars to fill five heat races. The undercard was the adult slingshot division. They brought enough razors for four heat races.

 

 

I’m happy to report that the slew of yellow flags slowed down just a bit.  The onslaught of yellows pretty much had to decrease or the show would have gotten done in early February. There was no way a racing program in the free world could go on for four hours with 7-8 caution flags in every race.

 

 

I would hope that President Trump would jump in and outlaw such a thing. The slogan, “Made America Great Again” pretty much means let’s have a lot fewer yellow flags at our racing events to me. Having to watch an auto race with a yellow flag every two or three laps for hours is not much fun.

 

 

It wasn’t long before I got to talking with my seatmate up in section 210. The man’s name was Andy Hickok.  He was from Saratoga Springs, New York. Saratoga Springs is one of the most beautiful little towns I’ve ever seen.  The village is home to the famous Saratoga horse racing track.

 

 

It turned out that Andy was a trackchaser in his own right. Despite having to work on a race car on Friday nights he has still been able to rack up about 260 track visits. Like most amateur trackchasing practitioners he has seen just about every track in his geographical driving circle.  Once that happens trackchasing slows down for virtually everyone who encounters this situation.

 

 

We had a good time reminiscing about the Glad Rag Raceway located in Saratoga Springs. For the longest time, I considered Glad Rag the worst track I had ever visited. Andy pretty much concurred with my conclusion.

 

 

Paul Weisel was sitting in a special section, reserved for high rollers, with his buddy earlier in the night. I couldn’t sit in that section, so we agreed to meet up at intermission.

 

 

I ran into Paul in the lobby talking with one of his friends, Bob Marlow. Bob is a racetrack announcer.  He had plied his trade all over the East Coast. His favorite racing genre is the midgets on asphalt. I haven’t seen too much of that kind of racing.

 

 

Soon Paul, his friend Jim Baker, Bob Marlow (above) and I were all sitting together in section 110. This was my best viewing location of the evening. In the middle of the program I sat in the top row of the section directly overlooking the start/finish line. That was a terrible viewing location.

 

 

The cars went completely out of sight when they exited turn four and didn’t reappear until they were in the middle of turns one and two. I didn’t know how this seating location would make a hockey game look but they were terrible for seeing a race.

 

 

I’m happy to report the 40-lap main event for the 25 TQ racers was actually a pretty good race. Yes, they had some flips and rollovers but overall it was good race.

 

 

Here’s the problem with indoor racing. There are essentially three ways it can play out. Since the track is flat the inside lane is the fastest way around. They try to put down some sticky material in the turns, such as Coke syrup, to bring in an outside groove.  Sadly, that it doesn’t really work all that well.

 

 

That means you might have single file racing. No fan likes single file racing. Secondly, if it’s impossible to pass, the aggressive drivers will try to “move” the driver ahead of them in the preferred groove. This results in lots of spins, flips and yellow/red flags.

 

 

The third way the racing can go, and the method that happens less frequently, is actual passing. There was some passing tonight. However, as a race fan it’s a chore to sit through five or six yellow flags for every decent pass that is made. If you’re going to start 20th the best way to do that is to not wreck anybody, not get wrecked yourself and simply be patient. Most of the cars ahead of you will be spun out, crashed or might blowup moving you from 20th to maybe as far as the lead.

 

 

I’ve seen a lot of short track racing.  As a matter fact, I’ve seen more short track racing than anybody. I’m not a big fan of excessive heat racing. When heat races take more than one hour I think I’m being taken advantage of.

 

 

I just got back from a trip to Australia. With their racing programs, they have three heat races for each class before they get to the final. Situations with excessive qualifying races, which may or may not be qualifying anybody for anything, are the equivalent of the “Cinnamon roll affliction”.

 

 

Have you heard of the “Cinnamon roll affliction”? Let me enlighten you. Everyone in America has eaten a cinnamon roll. You know the time it takes to make your way through the outer rings before you get to the moist center. The moist center is the reward for taking the time to eat through the sometimes dry, crusty outer rings.

 

 

It’s like that in auto racing as well. Heat races are the outer rings of the cinnamon roll. You’re trying to wade through these often times dull events in the hopes of getting to the moist center of the proverbial cinnamon roll, the feature race.

 

 

Often times you need a butt with a strong constitution as well. Often times your butt will wear out before your mental faculties will. It’s not unusual for a four-hour race program to have 3-3 1/2 hours of qualifying races that lead to 30-60 minutes of feature racing. That’s not all that entertaining for the race fan.

 

 

If you’re part of race team or your family is racing that’s another thing. You gotta be there. However, if auto racing expects to drive their business beyond revenues generated from friends who are directly related to the racer, promoter or the sponsorship, they better have an entertaining program for the racing fan. Sadly, I don’t think many of the country’s promoters have been able to do this, sometimes want to do this, and/or are capable of doing this. That’s why auto racing in many locations is going the way of the outdoor movie theater drive-in.

 

 

I’m planning to take Carol to the indoor event next month in Albany, New York. If that race has all of the yellow flags that Trenton had or that Allentown had she’s going to divorce me! The yellow flags will drive her crazy.  She won’t like the fumes either although they weren’t bad in Allentown. Maybe that’s why women account for about 10% of the ticket sales at these events.

 

 

I’m toying with a strategy for the Albany race. We might try and watch a heat race or two. That will allow me to “count” the track for trackchasing purposes. Then we’ll go out for a nice dinner somewhere nearby. What will we have for dessert at our dinner? We’ll return to the indoor racing just in time to catch the feature racing. That way we will be able to consume the “moist center” of the proverbial cinnamon roll without having to waste our time on the cinnamon roll’s outer rings. Yes, I think that plan might work.

 

 

 

 

AFTER THE RACES

Following the last race of the night I exited the PPL Center with all of the other East Coast race fans. I was parked on the fifth floor of the parking garage. I thought it was going to take me forever to get out of there but in reality, I was out in five minutes or so.

 

 

I would be making a two and one-half hour drive from Allentown down to Baltimore.  I expected to arrive at 2 a.m. or maybe just a little bit later. I had a flight leaving BWI at 7 a.m. I would need to have my rental car returned and be through airport security by 6 a.m. or so.

 

 

You can do the math. There was no time for a hotel. With a temperature of just 4° it didn’t seem prudent to sleep overnight in my car. I would attempt to return the car at 3 a.m.  Then the plan was to sleep on the landside of the airport terminal for two or three hours.

 

 

I was headed to Minneapolis.  Remember, I was flying standby.  There was no guarantee that I would even get on the plane at 7 a.m. but I hoped that I would.

 

 

I had been on the ground for about 40 hours. There were several highlights of this adventure. I absolutely loved going to the United States Military Academy at West Point to see a basketball game and then take a tour of the post.

 

 

I’m pretty good at meeting people.  With a career in sales I have done that just about every day of my life. Tonight, it was fun meeting Andy Hickok from upstate New York. Of course, it’s always fun to match up with Paul Weisel, who is not afraid to share his opinions on a wide range of topics. Good on him. It was also fun to be in the company of Bob Marlow a soon be retired race track announcer. Bob, who hails from New Jersey seemed to have a great appreciation for what I do as a trackchaser.

 

 

On the way down to Baltimore tonight I stopped at a highway service area. I made one last check on the availability of seats for my flight from Baltimore to Minneapolis. Things had changed. Things changed for the worse. Now it looked like I might not be able to get on the flight leaving Baltimore.

 

 

Let’s just think about this circumstance for a moment.  It was 3 a.m.  I was in a highway service area.  It was now one degree above zero on the Fahrenheit scale.  Where were 99.9% of the people who had been at the PPL Center just four hours ago?  They were likely sleeping soundly in their beds at home.  I hadn’t gone to bed yet.  I still had some driving to do.  Then just three hours from now my day would begin anew.  I would not be sleeping in my bed or in any bed for that matter.  Does this possibly put everything into perspective for the reader?

 

 

I quickly got an Internet connection for my computer from my phone. You knew you could do that right?  Soon I was booking myself on a flight from Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport to MSP.

 

 

I made a call to the National Car Rental Company. Would they let me return my car to Washington’s National airport even though I picked it up in Baltimore at no extra expense? Yes, they would. No, there wouldn’t be an additional charge. I motored on for an additional hour to the Reagan airport.

 

 

I arrived at Reagan National Airport at about 4 a.m.  As you can imagine it was pretty quiet at that hour. Luckily, the American Airlines Admirals Club opens in the airport at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings. I’m glad I don’t have that work shift every Sunday morning. I had a nice breakfast there. I slept a bit. I confirmed my plan to fly from Washington to Minneapolis. Stay tuned and you’ll find out why I was going to Minnesota.

 

 

 

Good night from the PPL center in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

Answer to who were the Army’s only five star Generals:

 

George Marshall       

 

Douglas MacArthur        

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower     

 

Henry H. Arnold  

 

Omar Bradley

  

 

 

 

 

 

Pennsylvania

 

 

The Keystone state

This evening I saw racing at my 105th lifetime track in the Keystone state yes, the Keystone state. I’ve seen racing at 100 or more tracks in six different states. I’ll take that.

 

 

 

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

Pennsylvania sayings:  Djeetyet?

 

 

Did you eat yet?

 

 

 

 

 

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 – 2,408

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A really good photo album of my West Point tour and visit to the PPL Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

  1. Picture #125 – never seen a babe holding up a sign. Do see it at MMA fights, with barely clothed babes.
    Very interesting report. I think West Point is co-ed, and the cheerleaders are cadets.

    • Dale, Yes, West Point is co-ed. About 20% of this year’s incoming class were women. I’m not sure if the cheerleaders would be cadets or not. Somehow the two don’t go together for me. Yes, the lightly clothed young ladies are a fixture at other racing events as well, most notably Red Bull Global Rally Cross events. All the best, Randy

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