"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Indy 500

Saturday, May 28, 2011:  
We took a road trip this weekend up to Indianapolis to check out the world-famous Indy 500 Car Race.  This is the 100-year anniversary of the race and we figured what better time to check it out in person.  Now, neither of us are particularly big race fans, but we do like large events and 300,000+ in attendance on average is a pretty darn big event.  The price was right (tickets were very reasonable).  The timing was right (it always falls on Memorial Day Weekend).  And, the distance was right (the easy 5 hour drive makes it very doable in a three-day weekend).
Our long-time friend, Wayne, joined us for the weekend as well.   Just like us, he's not a huge race fan, but loves being a part of big events and was curious about it like we were.  He met us at our house around 10 AM and we loaded up the rental car we picked up the night before at the airport for a cheap rate and headed north toward Kentucky.  We were in Louisville inside 3 hours and stopped for lunch just across the Ohio River at one of my favorite places, The New Albanian Brewing Company.  I have been here several times because of their great beer and close proximity to a casino that I frequent for poker tournaments.  Their food is also superb and we had a huge lunch of French fries with a variety of dipping sauces, pork tacos and burgers made with meat from local farms.

We made a couple of other stops at brewpubs (per my influence)  along the way to Indianapolis including Power House Brewing in Columbus, Indiana, which we have to admit wasn't too great, and then Oaken Barrel Brewing in Greenwood just south of Indianapolis.  The OB beer was much, much better.

Optical illusion?
We arrived at our Hilton hotel on the north side of Indy in time to unpack and rest a bit before dinner.  We went to dinner nearby at Zest! Exciting Food Creations Restaurant.  This unique little place has made it on Guy Fieri's show, "Drive-ins, Diner and Dives"  The food was very good.  We started with some baby tomato bon bons and then split the 5-hour braised short ribs entree.  Wayne was nice enough to share some of his huge carrot cake that he ordered for dessert.  After dinner we turned in rather early to rest up for tomorrow's big day at the racetrack.

Sunday, May 29, 2011:
So this is what 300,00+ people look like...we headed out to the track before 9 AM in hopes of getting plenty of time to mill around the track before the noon start.  So much for that.  Traffic was nuts and not as smooth as we thought it would be for an event that's been going on for 100 years.  Perhaps it was our fault for pre-buying a parking pass for a lot that was albeit close to the track itself, but excruciatingly slow to get to due to traffic.  We did enjoy ourselves along the way by people-watching.  There were some real characters including the gent above having his breakfst in the world's biggest outdoor chair.  Note the regular sized chair to the right for reference.
The view from our seats looking north toward the start finish line.
As the noon hour creeped closer and we were still not parked, Ashlee was gracious enough to allow Wayne and I to go in and find our seats to see the start of the race.  Ashlee got parked pretty quick and was able to hear and see the start of the race from the infield as well.  She found us at our seats about 12 laps in.  Our seats were very close to the track between the starting line and Turn 1.  However, they were a bit low and there were some obstructed views at times.  But we did have a good view of some of the pit areas, the race tower and all of Turn 1.  We stayed here for the first 60 laps or so which included the first crash of the race which we saw happen to our right in Turn 1. The speed and sound of these tiny cars busting 200 miles per hour on average are hard to describe in words and TV doesn't do it justice.  It's exhilarating and amazing to witness first-person. 

No Danica, but that's her ride.
We decided to check out the infield next for some of the race and made our way along right beside the track with bits of rubber hitting us as  the cars roared by only an arm's length away.  We walked through a tunnel going right under the speedway and cars racing above us, and emerged into the beautiful infield.  And when we saw beautiful, we mean it.  It's like a park inside the racing oval.  There are tall trees and tons of grassy areas including part of a manicured golf course.  Surprisingly to us, there were also great views of the racing action from the infield and we decided to spend the rest of the race slowing walking around the 2.5 mile oval checking out the spectacle both on and off the racetrack.  The 200- lap race seemed to pass very fast and before we knew it was over with a stunning ending as rookie, JR Hildebrand, had an easy lead to the checked flag when he smacked the wall in Turn 4 and allowed Dan Wheldon to slip by him and capture his second Indy title.
[Epilogue:  October 16, 2011.  In a shocking and very sad twist of fate, Dan Wheldon died in a fiery race crash in Las Vegas less than 5 months after winning the Indy 500.  RIP, good sir.]

Ashlee and Helio...Go # 3!

After the race we headed over toward Gasoline Alley where the cars travel from the garages to the pit area and vice versa after the race, and got in line to tour the garages thanks to some passes we were able to buy.  We had to wait a while as all the teams and cars made their way back to the garages before we were allowed in to have a look.  We were able to get a glimpse of last year's winner, Dario Franchitti, and his famous wife, Ashley Judd, as they came by to cheers from the crowd.  By the time we did get access to the garages, most of the drivers were gone, but 3-time Indy winner and "Dancing With the Stars" champ, Helio Castroneves, was still there signing autographs and shaking hands.  Ashlee was fortunate enough to get one of her patented self-portraits with him as well.

A great time was had by all.
We never saw the most famous (or infamous) driver on the track, the popular and beautiful, Danica Patrick, but her Go Daddy team was hard at work on her car as we came by for a look.  We hung out in the garage area for quite a while and observed the goings-on as we waited for the traffic to start clearing out.  When we got back to our car we were able to tailgate a bit as well, but we were drained from the long, hot, but exciting day.  The traffic had cleared out nicely by the time we hit the road and we got back to our hotel around dark and crashed for the evening.

A view from the infield between Turns 2 and 3.

Monday, May 30, 2011:  We celebrated most of Memorial Day in the car driving home, but we did make a few interesting detours along the way.  We did a nice little tour of downtown Indianapolis before we left and checked out the sites including the beautiful capitol building, the lovely Depew Fountain and the impressive new Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play.  Our lunch plans were at yet another brewpub...of course, and this one was in Nashville...Nashville, Indiana, that is.  It's called Big Woods Brewing Company and not only was the beer good and the food amazing (yummy chili and pizza), but it was located in one of the coolest little towns we have visited in a long time.   The town of Nashville, Indiana, is the heart of the regionally famous Brown County - an artistic and cultural center set amongst the lovely Hoosier National Forest. The town has a number of interesting shops and restaurants and it looks like a perfect weekend getaway kind of area.  We will definitely try and make it up back up here sometime when we can spend more time.

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