An Appalachian Trail Conservancy meeting has workshops, hikes and excursions. The last includes every type of outing, other than hikes. Some are cultural and special to the area.
Nothing is more indicative of the area than the Bristol Speedway. I joined a tour of the speedway, even though I’d never been to a race or watched one on TV. I just wanted an infusion of the Nascar culture without having to go to a race.
We drove to the racetrack and met a tour guide. First she took us to the drag strip, a quarter-mile of straight-away ending in a sand pit. The noise generated gives it its name Thunder Valley.
Then we went up to the upper floors to the owner’s suite. Bruton Smith, a car dealer in Charlotte, owns the Bristol Speedway and several others.
I was amazed that the tour included the suite. There was a large room, consisting of a dining room, living room and kitchen. The men’s toilet had a TV, placed in the correct position so that Smith doesn’t miss a second of the race. This is where we got the best view of the 160,000 spectator coliseum, the largest coliseum in the world.
But there are only two Nascar weekends a year, one in March and one in August. The guide emphasized that they are an economic engine for an area 100 miles around. There are few other events at the main track but nothing as big as the Nascar races.
Surprise number 2. We were driven to the track itself. It’s only a half-mile so we asked if we could speed-walk it. After all, we’re hikers but the guide said “no”. Cars can come out and not expect us.
They did let us climb the enbankment – a 36 deg. grade. We took pictures of each other at the top of the embankment and we climbed down on the diagonal.
We also could go into the stands and look out. This is truly the South- very casual and friendly. Any place else would cite security issues and just keep us on the bus.
It doesn’t make me want to go to a race but I got a better appreciation of what Nascar is all about. The best $4 I’ve spent in a long time.
Tomorrow, back to hiking.