Viva Las Vegas Weekend!

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(Captain Blowdri and Clint Bowyer’s race car @ Las Vegas Motor Speedway)

Last weekend was my annual trek to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race weekend.  In addition to the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races at this facility, there were two nights of lightening fast World of Outlaws Sprint Car races on the 1/2 mile clay track, located behind turn four and to the west of the NHRA drag strip on this world class racing complex, consisting of 1200 acres.

I have only missed one race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway since NASCAR started racing there in 1998.    This year the weather cooperated and was quite nice, in the mid 70’s during the daytime.  In the past, the weather was always of come concern.  The heat has been as high as in the mid 80’s one year, however in 2006, it snowed on us Friday night in our RV’s!  The weather in Las Vegas in the last of February/first of March is a crap shoot!

This year I purchased two weekend passes to the Neon Garage.  What a great idea!  The Neon Garage passes let you out into the infield.  That pass gives you access to pit road, the limited garage area, as well to an entertainment area that is really cool!

One of the many cool things about going to the NASCAR races in Vegas is the fact that the race track lies just across the street and a little NW of Nellis AFB.  During this time of the year, there is a wide a varied conglomeration of both US Air Force and NATO allies aircraft transiting to and through Nellis AFB.  But the treat of the whole weekend is watching the USAF precision flight team, known more commonly as the USAF Thunderbirds, practice and prepare for their upcoming yearly tour.

It is quite a show for all the race fans to watch on a daily basis!

For both the Nationwide race on Saturday, and the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, the dominate race car did not win the race!  Saturday “Blazingly Bad” Brad Keselowski had a sure win until he experienced a right front tire blowing out in the middle of turns 1 and 2 on the very last lap.  Luckily for him, he was able to hustle the car around to squeek in a third place finish.  On Sunday Tony Stewart was the dominating race car for most all of the race, however, some misguided pit strategy extremely late in the race relegated him to a second place finish!

There is just something magical about this place!

Check out this video! Viva Las Vegas!

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLUl8xkKSTk


The 2010 Trek To Talladega

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(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

With all the required preparation complete, Tuesday was the the day to launch out of Yuma with my brother, Jim, for our second adventurous trek to the 2010 Chase “wild card race”, Talladega Superspeedway, in Talladega, AL.  The plan was to fly to LAX Tuesday, grab a hotel, then launch out of LAX early Wednesday morning flying to Denver, then on to Atlanta, GA.  Once we got to ATL, we would grab a hotel room, get a good nights sleep, get up Thursday morning, rent a car, drive over to Anniston, AL, about 1 1/2 hr drove, and set up camp at our hotel for what is billed this year as the “Hallodega” race weekend.

Well, Tuesday was our shortest day, flying from Yuma,AZ to LAX.  That first segment went off without a single hitch.  We got to our LAX hotel, checked in, and got a good nights sleep, knowing that we were getting up early at 5am for our next segment of travel, LAX-DEN-ATL.

Day 2, Wednesday, started out early with a wake up call at 5am. we hopped on the 6am hotel bus back to the airport.  Security went swimmingly well with almost no line whatsoever at the security checkpoint.  Both Jim and I were hungry for something small in order to get our morning medications down. So we stopped at the gourmet restaurant of Mickey D’s, we knew that we would have a couple of hours at Denver with much better eating choices at the Mile High airport.

As it turned out there were plenty of seats available on the Denver flight, therefore, Jim and I had a whole row to our selves.  Once we got into our seats, settled down and buckled in, the B-767 pushed back, started up the engines, and taxied out for takeoff on runway 25R at LAX.

The 1:47 flight went by very quickly, added by a couple of a cat naps along the way!  On the descent, my thoughts turned to the layover time and the ability to get some better food at the Denver airport vs. LAX!  As we settled into a seat in the food court, I decided to look quickly at the departure screens to determine how far our walk would be to our departure gate.  To my total and utter dismay, I noticed that our flight to ATL had just been cancelled!  There was only one more flight to ATL and that was going to be in 6 hours.  Not only was it going to be a 6 hour wait, there would be more passengers there than seats available on the airplane!  Since we were standby passengers, it wasn’t looking very good for us to get to ATL  Wednesday night.

What a bummer!

With some quick mental gymnastics, I tried to look for a quick and reasonable alternate plan.  I saw that the Birmingham flight was running about 1:30 minutes late and it was scheduled to depart now in about 20 minutes.  Quickly I called Karen, got her working on listing the both of us on that Birmingham flight, cancelling our room in ATL that night, trying to get us a hotel room in Anniston, AL, and reserving a rental car in Birmingham, as well!  Those were going to be some daunting tasks to be done rapidly.

The first task was accomplished quickly and we were able to get onboard the flight to Birmingham.  The rest of those tasks would be accomplished while the two of us were airborne to Birmingham.  Now I had to wait until I landed in Birmingham to see if the other requests were able to be fulfilled, the rental car availability, hotel room, cancelling the room in ATL, etc.

Once we landed in Birmingham, I thought of one more problem that I failed to address before we got on the plane to Birmingham.  Our bags were going to ATL and we were now in Birmingham, AL, 125 miles away from ATL.

OOPPSS! The only way to get our bags was to drive to ATL airport and pick up the bags once they arrived there.  Well first things first, we have to see if we have a rental car reserved in BHM.  I turned on my phone to find that there was a voice mail from Karen saying that there is reservation at Enterprise, the hotel room in ATL was cancelled, and that I would have to get the hotel room in Oxford/Anniston myself, but there were rooms available.

When I showed up at the Enterprise Car rental desk at BHM and talked to the person behind the desk, I found out that there was no reservation in the computer, additionally, that they didn’t have any available cars!  Big Bummer dude!  I tried  call Karen, but she was hanging out with her girlfriends at a casino in town playing bingo.  So I left a voice mail on her phone and decided that Jim would start at one end of the car rental area and I at the other end and just checking to see if there was a way to rent a car.  It wasn’t looking very favorable when Karen returned my call.  She had the confirmation number, I gave that number to the Enterprise dude behind the desk, and his reply made my heart sink.

The reservation was for the following day!

What do I do now? I’m in BHM with what looks like now way to leave!  Nevertheless, within a couple of minutes the Enterprise dude had me hooked up with a sardine can for a rental car, but a rental car nonetheless!  Now we have to decide what our approach would be for a hotel room.

The decision was to approach the hotel that we have reservations with for Thursday-Sunday to see if they had a room for the additional night of Wednesday.  Using the now world famous Hammack charm, Jim and myself was not only able to requisition a room at our hotel for Wednesday, but got two queen beds to boot!

We have successfully dodges almost all the bullets that were shot our way…….so far.  Now we have one last obstacle in our way, getting our luggage at the Atlanta airport.  We are feeling soooo good now, what could possibly go wrong now?

We depart Oxford/Anniston, AL headed for Atlanta 93 miles away.  With a  phone call I was reassured that the DEN-ATL flight was landing at 10:29pm.  ATL is in the Eastern time zone and because the drive was about 1:30, we left Oxford at 7:30pm trying to time our arrival at ATL.  We arrived at ATL at approximately 10:10pm, parked the car, walked into the terminal, and was reaffirmed by the TV monitors that the plane was scheduled to land at 10:29pm.  Now the only question to be answered is, did our bags make this flight?

So the brothers Hammack hung out at Carousel #5 patiently waiting for the bags to come up the conveyor belt and plop down on the circular belt that takes the bags around and around.  Thirty minutes no bags, forty five minutes no bags, where could the bags be? More questions and less answers as the time rolls on!

While waiting so patiently, we struck up a conversation with  two wome that were waiting for someone off of that same flight.  We found out that because of all the weather in the area earlier in the evening, there was a backlog of flights arriving into the ATL airport, forming a logjam on the taxiways, and thus the planes were unable to get to the gates, causing excessively long delays.

Nevertheless, we waited patiently by Carousel #5 for our bags.  Now it is one hour, an hour and fifteen, on hour and a half, still now bags!  The patience has now turned frustration, cynicism, and even a small bit of anger.  Finally at the one hour forty five minute mark, the bags start to fool off the conveyor belt!  Jim’s bag was the second one to come up the chute, hooray!  Now mine should follow shortly.

Not so fast pilgrim!  We waited and waited, it was an additional ten minutes before my bag came ambling up the chute.  Hip, hip hooray our evening was  a success!  It is only now 11:50pm Wednesday night.

Now we have the 1:30 drive back the Oxford/Anniston,AL, initially in a driving down pouring rain storm.  Our final arrival time to end our day was 1:15am Thursday morning!  If you were counting that was 18:30 minutes after we started our day back in LA!

That my friends, was how my Wednesday went this week on the trek to Talladega!