Off to the Races
Trip Start Jun 25, 2010
13Trip End Jun 27, 2010
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That’s not a baseball box score. It’s a moose tally.
We left Friday night a little after 7:00 and took Rt. 112 east through Woodstock, where we would pick up Rt. 93 south. Before I go any further, understand this: I know it’s the rut for moose and deer. I also know that rut or no rut, the best practice for driving around these parts at night is to reduce your speed and keep your eyes peeled for moose and deer because they have a tendency to jump out in front of you or stand in the middle of the road.
And when you drive up here, striking one of these animals really isn’t a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.” It happens all the time
There’s a mountain passage on Rt. 112 in Woodstock that’s about 8 miles long. On the downward portion of road, you have to be careful to keep your speed down, otherwise you’ll get going pretty fast as you progress down the long descent.
So there we were, going about 45 miles per hour with the high beams on, scanning the culverts for moose and deer. Your early warning sign is usually the reflection of their eyes. As we were moving along, a car was coming west about a mile in front of us, so I flipped off the high beams. Well, the combination of the on-coming headlights and the low beams meant I couldn’t see the bull moose on the right side of the road coming out of the culvert until we were close enough to illuminate him. I’d guess he was no more than 100 feet in front of us as he just kept sauntering out onto the road, confused and fearless by elevated levels of hormones this time of year.
I swerved into the west-bound lane (there was plenty of room between us and the on-coming car), but driving an 18-foot long truck hauling a 30-foot long camper means all of it ain’t gonna move at the same time, and the camper was still crossing over when the moose simply walked into it
I got out to survey the damage and was relieved that other than some crinkling to one section of skirting and misaligned stairs, there was nothing wrong. I picked out gobs of moose fur from the vent panels, screw heads and door latch. I was also relieved that there was no blood. I figured that if easily breakable items like the door latch were perfectly intact, I didn’t hit the moose very hard at all. I convinced myself he was fine. I hated to think of him dragging himself off the highway to die alone in the woods somewhere from his injuries. But God knows, he’d be neither the first nor the last. Moose strikes are simply part of life in the North Country, and I was grateful that it wasn’t worse. If the on-coming car had been closer, I wouldn’t have been able to swerve and would have had no choice but to run straight on into the animal. The truck would have been totaled, we would have been injured and worst of all, we would have missed the NASCAR race
So breathing big sighs of relief, we got back on the road and headed into Woodstock. Whereupon this same scenario presented itself again. This time, however, an even larger moose was standing right in the middle of the road. Luckily, I was able to stop and the poor, confused moose panicked and started running all over the place. First, he ran east in the west-bound lane, then ran off the road, only to turn and run back onto the road, then he ran off the other side. Then back on the road. Then off again. It’s kind of comical to watch a moose run. Their legs bend in funny-looking angles and when they’re on pavement, their hooves slip, so their long, gawky legs slide around as they try to gain footing. So there’s this huge bull – at least 1,000 pounds – running all over the place and I’m kind of chuckling as he tries to figure out what to do. Finally, off he goes into the woods and we’re in the clear.
We arrived at the racetrack without further incident and when we were buying the camping pass, the lady looks at the campground chart and says to me, “Oh, you’re lucky.”
To which I replied, “You have no idea.”
She looked at me as if to ask why and I told her about the moose incident
So she issued us our pass and off we went to the campground. The grounds at the track are nice and even though the campers are all pretty close together, everyone has plenty of elbow room. We arrived at our site around 9:30 and set up camp pretty quickly. Just after finishing, some folks arrived next to us and we started chatting right away. The husband was one Good Time Charlie and after saying hi to us, he went around and was shaking hands with lots of other campers. He was a little loud, always smiling and full of energy, so you couldn’t help but like him. His wife was very nice, too, and she had never been to a NASCAR event, so she didn’t know what to expect. Come to find, she enjoyed herself and like us, she was amazed at how everyone there was so nice and outgoing.
The next day, Samantha arrived with her friend Siobhan after Kathy left for work. Kathy had to attend a full Saturday shift while she learns the ropes, so she left about an hour before the girls arrived. Once they were there, Sam, Shiobhan and I just hung out and talked, took the dogs for walks and relaxed. After Kathy returned, we ate a nice dinner and watched the night life at the campground ramp up. Sam rather quickly and efficiently organized a game of Drunken Dizzy Bat – a game in which one person pours a beer into a wiffle bat, chugs it, spins around three times and then tries to hit the empty beer can someone else pitches. After a few enthusiastic rounds of this, the game broke up and groups of people went to visit other campgrounds or hang out by their fires.
The next day was race day. Kathy went with Sam and Shiobhan while I stayed with the dogs and then she returned so I could go. She bought a set of scanner headphones so we could listen to the driver/pit conversations during the race. Hearing this communication does a lot for your enjoyment of the sport because you gain some valuable strategic insights into the teams and how they approach the race. Our seats were great, too – even better than ones we had the last time. We sat in the sixth row between turns three and four, so the smells, feel and sounds were way better than if you were sitting higher up in the stands.
The race was exciting at the last lap when Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer were both gambling with fuel. Entering the last lap, Stewart – who was leading – ran out of gas and Bowyer took the checkered flag. Listening to the teams over the radio was cool because I heard everything they were planning with respect to their pace and fuel situation, and saw it all play out on the track. At about Lap 295, Bowyer's crew chief told him to conserve fuel because "the only way we're gonna win is if he runs out of gas and we don't." I guess he's the crew chief for a reason.
We ate dinner after the race and broke camp. The girls left right before we hitched up. We said our goodbyes to each other and our weekend neighbors, then the trip became a memory.
Getting home was moose-free.
SCANDAL! Oh, the scandal at NASCAR!
It seems our winner, Clint Bowyer and his crew are in some hot water with NASCAR. The left side of the rear of his car was deemed too high by a small margin after being taken back to the NASCAR Research and Development Center for further inspection following the race. That led to a 150-point penalty being issued to Bowyer by NASCAR; along with a 150-point deduction for Childress in the owners' standings; a $150,000 fine and six-week suspension for Bowyer's crew chief, Shane Wilson; and a six-week suspension for the No. 33 car chief Chad Haney.
Bowyer admitted that he and his team had been warned of their car being "too close to tolerances" following the previous week's race at Richmond, and that at the same time they were told their car would be taken back to the R&D Center after New Hampshire "whether it finished first or 43rd."
Bowyer suggested his car may have been damaged by the wrecker that pushed him to Victory Lane after he ran out of gas doing his celebratory burnout.
"Is it possible that a two-ton wrecker could bend the quarter-panel 60-thousandths of an inch? You have to ask yourself that," Bowyer said. "I got hit during the race, turned a couple of times. Racing is tough. Now if this thing was knocked out half an inch, I could see something being made of it."
The 150-point hit dropped Bowyer from second back to 12th in the championship standings. So instead of trailing leader Denny Hamlin by 35 points with nine races remaining in the Chase, Bowyer now trails by a seemingly insurmountable 185.