This is sort of a blog style report of my ride out to TWS yesterday to spectate. As you'll see, it's not written from a track person's
perspective; although I tend to spend lots of time helping friends at track days and at races. Also, I originally wrote this as an e-mail to bore all of my friends, some of whom are pretty clue-free about motorcycles and track days.
I had a pretty fun day. My friend, Jenn, was scheduled to participate in a motorcycle track day at Texas World Speedway. For those that don’t know, the track is over in College Station; which is a little over a hundred miles from me.
Jenn, her mom, and dog Molly went out there the night before. My wife couldn’t make the trip because of work. However, I did manage to recruit the elusive “Uncle Dickie” to motorcycle out there with me this morning. He isn’t really my uncle; he is just one of those strange uncle types that most people have. Being a “strange uncle” myself, I know them when I see them. I caught up with Uncle Dickie at the Starbucks in Temple, TX. He was busy talking to a neighbor friend of his, who had stopped by in her new Rolls Royce to enjoy some yuppie coffee.
Dickie said he knew a good way to get out there, so we took off. He has some great European motorcycles, but today he rode his butt-ugly Kawasaki KLR650 thumper. I’m still breaking the new bike in, so we kept the pace leisurely. The route we took was County 485, which you can pick up east of Temple, and take all the way to Hearne. From there, it’s the usual shot down Route 6 to the track. It was overcast, but just the sort of cloud cover to keep the temperatures bearable. The road was mostly straight, even by Texas standards. But, the views were awesome. This was the first major foray I had made out into the country since Winter, and it was uplifting to see green stuff again. We passed through several gigantic fields of ankle-high corn. Every now and then, Dickie would make broad sweeping gestures at things. I would desperately look in the direction indicated, hoping to understand what he was pointing out. Somewhere just west of Hearne, we had to stop and dismount while a long train blocked the road. I asked him what he had been pointing to. He said that the entire area had once been flooded. It was an interesting story, but I was more amused that he thought I could have figured that out just from the way he had waved his hand at 70 mph.
We continued down to the track. There was no entry fee, which was slightly surprising. The paddock area was bustling with the usual activity. A friend of mine once took a girl on a “date” to watch sports-car races at Road Atlanta. He took a picture of her, and when I saw it, I remarked that she looked horribly bored. My buddy confirmed the suspicion, and added that she probably had as much interest in the passion of motor-sports as we would in a toaster. Over the years I have seen this painfully bored expression on many girlfriends/wives at tracks. The pit area was full of these “toaster women.” Another thing that I noticed a lot of were Suzuki SV650s. I always knew they were popular track bikes; but now that I have another one, I see them everywhere. That’s not a bad thing. Between the SVs and the Suzuki TLs (sort of the bigger bore predecessor to the SV), I had plenty of ammo to strike up conversations with strangers about.
At first, we couldn’t find Jenn or her mom, so we parked and hiked over to the upper-deck along pit row. You can see a good amount of the track from there, as well as the part of the NASCAR type oval that is included in the road course. The facility is huge, probably rivaling any first-echelon NASCAR venue in size. Over the years it has fallen into decay. There are lots of weeds and rusty metal corners on things. Frankly, the place already looks abandoned. Dickie said that the huge concrete grandstands had suffered some structural damage, which has caused them to be deemed unsafe. We both found it difficult to imagine them sliding down into the track, hurtling thousands of screaming NASCAR fans to certain death and crushing all twenty stock cars like Coke cans. But, it was fun to try and imagine.
We found Jenn and her mom in one of the open pit bays. I introduced Dickie to them, and everyone became fast friends. Jenn’s mom was visiting from Tucson, and it was good that her visit coincided with Jenn’s track day. I always enjoy trying to speak with her in German as much as possible. Over the years, I have discovered that sobriety almost completely destroys my ability to speak German; but if I ever need to ask her for a pencil, I‘m in good shape. They had had an adventure trying to smuggle Molly into the paddock area; but she seemed to appreciate the effort.
Jenn and Molly
Uncle Dickie, probably telling a lie
Dickie didn’t stay more than an hour or so, before he puttered back home. We all fell into the routine of the track day. Usually, the riders are divided into ability groups. This particular operation was almost more like a rider school. They had mandatory rider classes between sessions, which Jenn seemed to tire of. They also had instructors sprinkled in with the riders, who would provide critiques. Jenn’s only on-track problem was early in the afternoon. Her bike just seemed to sputter and die at one point. I’m not sure what might have been the issue. I checked all the simple stuff. Regardless, she didn’t experience the problem again. Her road bike is an ’05 Kawasaki ZX-6R. She just recently purchased this ’97(?) Honda F3 that had been permanently converted to track-only use. This was her first track experience with the Honda, and she seemed to like it a lot; even with the temporary running issue.
Jenn's "new" F3
Another friend of mine (Matt) was also riding in the event. He was out on his GSX-R600, and seemed to be having a whale of a time. I walked over to his pit area and chatted a while.
Toward the end of the day, Jenn asked one of the instructors if she could move up to Group #2. She has only been riding a motorcycle for nine months, yet her skill level appears to have developed at an exponential pace. She seemed to be passing everyone in the first Group. Not only did she graduate to the faster group, she got a very favorable critique from one of the instructors. Jenn’s mom and I would walk Molly out to the in-field fence line when Jenn was on the track. We tried to get some pictures of her; but for every ten attempts, we got nine pictures of empty race track. Darn digital delay!
After the final track session, everyone packed up and headed home. I successfully retraced the Dickie route back home, with Jenn, her mom and Molly following along in the pickup. Everyone was horribly exhausted. At a stoplight in Temple, I looked in my rear view mirror to see Jenn slouched over in the passenger seat, probably snoring. My new bike is now half-way through the break-in period. It will be nice to get past that watermark, so I can push it a little higher in the revs. Once I got home, I shared the day’s highlights with my wife. She made me march to the bathroom and look at my sunburn. I could tell I got a little sun, but had no idea how fried I really was. I feel sort of like a bowling-pin. Bright red at the top, and pasty white around the wide part in the middle. I deserve it. Earlier in the day, I had boasted to Jenn and her mom that since I was not German (like them), I could better tolerate exposure to the sun. So, right now my Irish ass is burnt.
All in all, a great day.