"Gentlemen, Start Your Engines"

You'd think that moving to a northern state would mean saying goodbye to southern traditions. In reality, I've found myself participating in more "southern" activities lately than I ever did when I lived in Virginia. Go figure.

My latest below-the-Mason-Dixon-Line-originating excursion came Sunday, when Brad and I went with a bunch of friends to the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. I had never been to a Nascar race before, so even though I'm not really into watching motorized contraptions drive around in circles for hours, I was kind of excited about seeing what the whole experience was like.

All week, the local weather stations had been preaching sunny, 90-degree weather for Sunday, so in preparation, I got out the shorts and packed about fifteen bottles of sunscreen. The weather stations, however, turned out to be big, fat liars. When we got to Brooklyn, this is what greeted us:

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Cloud, cloud, everywhere a cloud.

The sky was heavy for most of the morning, threatening to pour down on us if anyone blinked the wrong way. Finally, the rain made its appearance, alternating between huge plops and fizzy mist. Good thing I brought my rain gear--oh, wait, I didn't. Heh, heh.

Despite being drizzled on for several hours, however, we had fun tailgating and hanging out in between our little convoy of trucks. There was a slight hitch when a power inverter failed to charge a crock pot of buffalo chicken dip, but that was solved pretty quickly. I guess when you hang out with a group of engineers, there's no real need to panic about anything--it's basically the same as chilling with a group of MacGyvers.

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Crock pot . . . cords . . . something under the hood of the car . . . that's my expert analysis of what's going on here.

The rain finally stopped sometime after 1:00 p.m. (the race's original start time), so we moseyed closer to the track to scout out vendors and free stuff. Unfortunately, most of the tables had already packed up, but we did get to hang out with some humongous tractors.

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Left: Big tractor.
Right: Our friends, Melissa and Kat, demonstrating the hugeness of the wheels.

Pretty soon, the rain clouds decided that they had had enough of dumping all over us, and moved away to let in the sun (and heat). Nice weather just in time for the race to start, even though we were a little bit late getting to our seats. At least we got to see the jet flyover, which, if you ask me, is probably the coolest part of Nascar, anyway.

Brad: "That makes me want to join the Air Force."

I promise that we did eventually make it inside the stadium (Is stadium the right word? Arena? Race place?). And man, two miles of track sure does make for a big oval.

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I couldn't fit the whole track into one picture, so maybe you can just enjoy this lovely view from the bleachers of the RV cluster inside the track.
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Left: Brad, being all happy that he's at a race. Right: Me, with my pointy sunglasses and earplugs.

Nascar races, as it turns out, present an interesting challenge: the cars are incredibly loud, and you can't hear anything anyone says unless you pull out your ear plugs and let them scream right next to your face. And even then, it's like a slightly-disheveled game of telephone. The result is a surprising feeling of solidarity, despite the fact that you're sitting among thousands of people.

So, being the resourceful (mind-wandering) person that I am, I decided to entertain myself with other activities. This included, of course, accepting Brad's challenge to successfully photograph the Goodyear blimp with my iPhone. It worked . . . kind of.

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Here, the Goodyear blimp plays a supporting role to the MIS track.
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And here, you can almost read the side of the blimp.
I spared you the vertical version of this photo, which featured a very shiny-headed bald man.

At one point, Brad and I went back to the car to put away some food we'd forgotten about and to get our camera. When we got back, I realized that I had forgotten to put the memory card back in the camera. That did, however, kill about another 20 to 30 minutes. And then there was the mile-long hot dog line. Now, I'm starting to wonder if I actually saw more than a half hour of race the whole time I was there. At least that would explain why I didn't get cranky from boredom.

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People cheering during the final laps of the race.

As you may already know, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. came away as Sunday's victor, claiming his first win in four years. Tony Stewart (a.k.a., the guy my dad chose for me to root for) came in second, and everyone else didn't matter. Okay, that's not true, but those are the only drivers I paid any attention to towards the end.

When the racing was done, we didn't even attempt to mess with impending traffic. Instead, we hung out for another hour or so, enjoying a little more picnic time while we waited for more cars to clear out. Luckily, we got out long before sunset, and made our way back home via roads of mutilated traffic cones and nonsensical detours.

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Just a few of the poor cones that littered the road after facing race day traffic.

See you later, Brooklyn.