Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When in Charlotte...

(12/02/10 - Added a link to the corresponding Examiner article at the end of the post)

Although Maryland is technically a southern state (it's below the Mason-Dixon line, and incidentally, is my homestate), I never really considered myself a true southerner.  As far as that goes, I never considered myself a northerner (or Yankee, as they are referred to down here), either.  Nomad, traveler, world resident, home-is-where-the-heart-is type of person - yes.  So, moving to a true southern state (North Carolina), was just another place to call home, southern or not. 

One of my preferences is to try the local flavor, no matter where I go.  What's the point of going some place new to visit just to eat at some chain restaurant you can get back home?  If you are going to do that, why spend the money to go to that foreign city?  Save the cash and buy the dessert at the chain restaurant back home!  So, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things my son and I did when we moved here was visit the quintessential southern state attraction...

I don't know about you, but when I think of North Carolina, certain things come to mind; tasty barbecue (although I'm not big on the vinegar based type...but I will learn to love it as much as Van's in Oklahoma, I'm sure), mountains, the Outer Banks, birthplace of Krispy Kreme (What? You didn't know that?  Shame on you!), excellent colleges, nature and beautiful scenery, and, of course, NASCAR!  Ok, maybe NASCAR is more like the first thing you might think of, but for dramatic effect, I had to put it last...

So, our destination to that quintessential southern state attraction was, of course, the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  (Here's where I can tag back to the geezer post...) Generally, I do not like to spend too much time reading the details about items; if it catches my eye and intrigues me, then I might skim over the information about that item, but that is about it.  Apparently, my son is filling my shoes a bit quicker than I thought...and in the meantime, I think he is pushing me out of mine!

After dropping $32.90 at the ticket booth, we proceeded to the ticket taker...which makes me wonder, why bother having a ticket booth and a ticket taker...why not make them one and eliminate the need for two lines?  But I digress...The ticket taker pointed us in the right direction, and failed to take our tickets.  The tickets were not really tickets at all, rather they were these cool back-stage, all-access-pass looking cards.  So the ticket taker was more of a directional guide and we soon found out what these cool "tickets" were really for.

About 50 feet past the entrance, a beautiful young lady with a camera almost as big as she, was blocking our path to the race cars.  If we wanted to pass, we had to get our picture taken...never mind the fact that I was lugging around my Nikon SLR with multiple lenses...that didn't matter, the young lady said.  So, reluctantly, we smiled for the salesperson as we stood in front of a blue (or maybe it was green...sorry, geezer moment...) backdrop.  As she snapped off a few shots, my son's facial expression pretty much summed it up..."why are we getting our picture taken?  I want to see the cars!" is what his eyes were blurting out.

Me, attempting to beat the institution!
After handing us a ticket where we could buy our very own picture of this memorable life event, she let us pass.  Upstairs to the third floor we went...where another photo-op person was conveniently placed in our pathway to viewing horsepower of days gone by.  Grrr...This time, I got smart.  I figured out what the gentleman was taking a digital picture of, positioned myself in a way that I could replicate the scene, and snapped off a few of my own shots while my son held the green flag above the starting line of resting, over-sized go-karts below.  HA!  Take THAT NASCAR marketers!  Of course, the picture I took is far from the caliber of Walter Iooss, but I felt a slight sense of redemption, anyway. (And, boy, I hope posting about this doesn't mean I'm traceable and now have some fines to pay...)

Finally, we were off, free as birds, unrestricted (except by the ropes, closed doors, and glass encasing around the memorabilia), and ready to learn the rich history of NASCAR.  Since my son had been talking about becoming a NASCAR race driver since the day we loaded the covered wagon to move from Oklahoma to North Carolina, I figured he would want to know all about NASCAR's past.  The first exhibit we came to detailed some of that history, but it did not have a car in front of it.  As I was reading the sign, (something I rarely do, don't forget) I reached for my son to put my arm around him so that we could take this moment in father-son bonding time, and cherish it for years to come.  I reached to my left...nope, not there.  I reached to my right...hmmm, not there either.  Ahhh, there he is...ten steps ahead of me.  I called out to him and suggested he stop and read the signs.  "Dad, I want to see the cars!" he fussed.  So off to the cars we went.
Did they really use bungee cords to hold down the hood?

Let's step back for a moment.  When we first entered the building, I asked how long we could expect to be in the Hall.  The lady said, typically people spend about two hours from top to bottom.  About ten minutes into our visit, we were done with the first of three floors.  Fortunately, the second floor was a bit more interesting to him.
Trying pit-crew
A natural talker...errr...I mean announcer!

The second floor was more interactive, and, best of all, it had race cars!  As a result, we spent about a full twenty minutes there, before he got bored.  As I was trying to get him to slow down to read some of the descriptions, he was busy checking out the pit crew area, simulation games, and wanting to spend more money to sit inside a genuine replica of a model race car.  Of course, I wanted to do this too, since I had not yet accepted my potential geezer status, but being short of funds made it difficult to succumb to the awesomeness factor.  So, we headed off to the first floor...where all the cool cars are.

Looking back

The first floor had a smattering of the different vehicles throughout NASCAR's existence.  As much as I wanted him to learn the history of a sport that we were, no doubt, going to be immersed in from living in the NASCAR capital of the world, I was just as excited as he was to see the life-sized, posed racers.  Ten minutes later, we were headed to the exit doors...

To exit the building we were directed to pass by the photo booth where we could purchase the many photos of us taken by the trained staff.  Somehow, we managed to duck past the eagle eyes of the salespeople and just when we thought we were free, the gift-shop magically appeared.  Off in the distance, I could see the exit, but my son's eyes could only see the merchandise.  Being the smart kid that he is, he went for one of the smaller items, knowing that his chances of me saying yes were much greater for this item than if he asked for a $200 coat.  However, I could not bring myself to buy a $10 matchbox car and so we escaped the NASCAR marketers grip once again.

Those forty minutes made me remember the days my parents took me sightseeing.  I had no desire to see the Louvre, Prado, Sugarloaf Mountain (but the bikinis in Ipanema sure were nice), or most of any of the other incredible places I was fortunate to visit as a kid.  All I wanted to do, other than check out the girls at Ipanema, was sleep and eat...and I could do that at home!  But, I am forever grateful to my parents for dragging me to these awful places and torturing me by forcing me to visit the Eiffel tower, or spending time in London, because now that I can appreciate it, I cannot afford the trip, so at least those memories are free, and pretty cool, now.  Hopefully my son will, one day, have fond memories of me making him stop to read the signs, try to get our money's worth, and forcing him to take in new sights in new places.  Right now though, to him I'm sure this must somehow mean I'm a geezer.

Corresponding article at the Examiner --> CLICK ME! 
Yeah, he had fun, and it was $33 well spent to see him smile.

Not a big fan of #3, but what would a blog about NASCAR and North Carolina be without Dale?


  1. Ah, yes - - memories, and now, as some would say, "the torch is being passed along". This one definitely brought a chuckle and a smile at what has been and what is yet to be. Enjoy these special moments! They'll make great memories, especially for later years.

  2. I'm not so sure I want that torch passed so quickly...especially since I know what I did to keep that torch lit when I was a kid! haha :)