"Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it."
– William C. Durant
Man, I don't know about you, but this quote is a breath of fresh air for me. I can tend to focus on the past and do the "shoulda/coulda/woulda" speech in my head all the time, but then I remember that I am forgiven and loved, and find the strength to move forward. I know a couple of you out there are struggling right now so I am hoping that these words from William Durant give you some encouragement.
Ok, so let's talk about Daytona. First off, Steve and I stayed in a campground in Port Orange and I must say, this area is quite nice. We were close enough to the track (7 miles) so our post-race commute was a non-event, but far enough away from the tourist areas that we enjoyed a nice, quiet week (except for the occasional train that ran right behind our campground at all hours of the night!!!!! Jeez Louise those things are loud).
Our first couple of days here were lovely. We visited the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse that sits right on the end of the end of the island of Daytona Beach Shores. This lighthouse was built in 1887 and is the tallest in Florida and one of the prettiest we've seen so far on our trip. Steve and I climbed the 198 steps to the top (whew!) and were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Atlantic ocean, the shores of Daytona Beach, and the beautiful homes that line the Halifax River. We learned that this lighthouse, interestingly enough, is not owned by the state or federal historic societies, but by the community that surrounds it. These people were responsible for restoring not only the lighthouse but the entire compound that surrounds it and served as the lighthouse keeper's home and work environment. This dedicated lighthousekeeper walked up those 198 steps every day carrying 5 gallons of kerosene to fill the tanks that provided the light source behind the third order Fresnel lens. Trust me, that was one in-shape dude. That is until he died of a heart attack about half way up the stairwell.
The beach in Daytona is quite interesting. First of all, it is quite large and extends back from the shore a great deal. Cars and trucks are allowed to drive and park on the beach in several places along the shoreline. Steve and I went down to the beach to watch the surfers and to fly our kite. What a blast that was. Our kite is about 6 feet across, brilliantly colored, and has these really long tails that make it an interesting kite to watch. As we were flying the kite, the Goodyear blimp came floating by which was cool as it was hanging pretty low and looked as though it was right next to my kite (but it wasn't). That was really fun. I don't know how long it's been since you've flown a kite but it has been many many years for me. What an enjoyable experience that was and I can't wait to do it again.
We also made time for some wildlife experiences. Next to the lighthouse is the Marine Science Center, whose chief reason for existence is the rehabilitation of marine animals and birds that have been injured by boats, fishing lines, and cars. It was interesting to see that, once again, there were a number of bald eagles with broken wings being rehabbed. We saw this when we visited the Punta Gorda facility a couple of weeks ago and I am wondering how so many of these birds get injured. They are absolutely huge when they are in-flight - - their wingspan is about 6 feet - - so you can't miss them when they are flying around. We also visited the Blue Spring State Park to see the manatees. This park has a natural spring that flows from underground. This water remains a constant 72 degrees throughout the year which is why the manatees flock to this area during the colder winter months. While we were there we were blessed to see 5 manatees and a baby manatee floating aimlessly in the water. The water in the river that is fed by the spring is crystal clear and the colors were spectacular. Steve tried to capture that with his camera but the pictures don't really do it justice. If you are ever in the area during the January-March timeframe, I highly recommend visiting this state park.
Before I get to my comments on the race events, I want to tell you about the drive-in church we went to Sunday morning. This was a total hoot. This church is a converted drive-in theater (hence the name). The pastor of the church stands out on the balcony of a large building in the front of the drive-in and performs the service. We tuned our car radio to the specified station and heard the whole message. That was really strange but fun. Men walked around during the offertory and collected the donations. Unfortunately, we could not participate in the communion ceremony because they ran out (apparently there are a lot of race fans who go to church). This service had a full choir and an organ and piano accompaniment. I can't see doing this every week, but based on the financial information contained in the bulletin we were given when we pulled in, this is a very popular method of worship in Daytona.
Ok, now on to race events. Steve and I had planned to see the Gatorade Duels, the Nationwide race as well as the Daytona 500. We had awesome seats for all three races, which was nice. The Duels were interesting, but honestly, I wouldn't go again. There is very little real racing going on because most of the contestants are already officially in the Daytona 500. The purpose of this race is really to determine how they line up and who of the "go or go-homers" will make the big race. So, this event was nowhere near as exciting as I had expected it to be. The Nationwide race, however, was awesome. There were a lot of crashes, which were expected, and the finish was very exciting. The final lap's crash occurred right in front of us and both Steve and I so fixated on the flying cars around us that we almost missed James Buescher's #30 car eeking out the win, which was the first of his career. That was really cool and is what makes racing the exciting sport it is.
The Daytona 500, however, was more of a marathon than a race. For the first time in it's 54 year history, the Daytona 500 was not run on Sunday afternoon. the rain came in early in the morning and persisted all day. Steve and I drove to the track after the drive-in church and sat in the parking lot waiting for the rain to stop or a determination made by Nascar officials that the race would be postponed. When it finally looked like we would get a race in, we headed to the buses that took us from parking lot 7 to the track. We brought our rain ponchos just-in-case, but it truly looked like the rain would stop and we would get a race. No such luck, however, as the rain came pouring down just as Steve and I got to our seats. We were able to put our rain ponchos on but that really didn't help me. For some reason, the slacks that I was wearing were acting like sponges. The only thing hanging out below my poncho was the lower half of my calves and my feet, but my pants absorbed water from the bottoms up and by the time I got to the truck, both pant legs were soaked up to my thighs. It looked like I went swimming in my pants and boy was that cold. Steve and I headed back to our trailer because it was just a short jaunt down the road. We changed our clothes and watched the weather and waited for the "all clear" so we could head back to the track. Later in the afternoon the rain had stopped and they began to dry the track, but by the time we got to the parking lot, it started to rain again and the rain was then postponed until Monday at noon.
So Monday comes and so does the rain, which caused Nascar to again postpone the race until 7:00 that evening. COOL. A Daytona 500 night race. Now that's exciting. So Steve and I headed back to parking Lot 7, which by this time we began to feel like we should be paying property taxes on since we had spent so much time there. Fortunately, this time the race actually gets going. Surprisingly enough, the stands were packed. We thought we would be able to change seats to ones closer to the finish line. We figured a good number of people had to head back to their real lives on Monday, but NOOOOOOO. The place was truly full, which was cool. Our seats were awesome. We were in the top row of the grandstands in the Weatherly Tower which afforded us a view of the entire track and especially an unobstructed view from turn 4 to the start/finish line. The evening was a perfect temperature and there was no rain in sight so Steve and I settled in for what we thought would be an exciting race. Right off the bat on lap 2 there was a crash that took out one of our favorite drivers (Trevor Bayne) and after that, the race was rather dull. Honestly, I hate to say it but I was bored, right up until the time that Juan Pablo Montoya slammed into the track drying truck that was out there cleaning up some engine fluids left on the track by another driver. There was a yellow flag flying which means all the drivers slow down. Most of the drivers will pit to refuel, get fresh tires, etc. so there's really nothing exciting going on during a yellow flag. This time was and exception because Juan Pablo was cruising around the track trying to get back to the lead pack so he could line up properly for a restart and lost control of his car. SLAM!!!! Right into the back of the jet dryer, rupturing it's fuel tank. This caused a huge fire which burned long enough to damage the track surface. The odd thing about this wreck is that it took forever for the fire trucks to get over there. I think everyone was in shock because who expects a cleanup truck to get into a wreck. So, given what we knew would be a huge delay, Steve and I took off and decided to watch the rest of the race from home, which turned out to be a good decision because the race didn't end until at 1:00 a.m. If we had stayed we wouldn't have made it home until 3:00 in the morning. There was a sizable crash in the closing laps that caused our brother-in-law Yog's two driver picks for this race to spin out allowing our driver (Clint Bowyer) to move up on the track and finish 11th, thereby giving us 5 points in our Nascar pool. Thanks Kyle and Tony!
Well that's it for Daytona. We're packing up and moving on to Bushnell, Florida. We will be there until March 12 as our plans are to catch the NHRA Gatornationals and some Tiger Spring training games.
Chat with you later kids.