I am a sports fan. Underneath that very broad umbrella lies the category of motor sports. I follow motor sports – peripherally – but in no way would I all myself an avid fan.
I am, however, a fan of taking time off of work and taking part in new experiences with my friends. That is how I find myself at Sebring International Raceway this weekend taking in the 12 Hours of Sebring race. I won’t go into specifics about the race except to say it last twelve hours. When you’re sitting out in the sun, drinking beer, and watching cars scream by, twelve hours feels like twenty four.
But for my wife and me, this is less about the race and more about the time shared with friends. For us, it’s about fellowship, and considering we’ve been here since Wednesday, sharing the close confines of a 30-foot camper (i.e. one bathroom), it’s very safe to say we really like our friends.
In addition to the good times, grilled food, and empty beer bottles, I have learned a lot these last several days. Here’s a recap in no particular order.
- I know very little about camping, campers, RV’s, and the entire culture that goes with it. I am 42 years old, and I feel there is a slew of life lessons I still need to learn like; how to empty the tanks on an RV (I’ll just pay someones else to do it for me, thank you very much), and how a refrigerator can run off propane (I am still perplexed).
- Corvettes are beautiful. Prototype Corvettes are bleeping gorgeous.
- The logistics that go into a racing team – specifically for endurance racing like Sebring – are amazing. From scheduling how long a particular driver will be out of the track to tuning the car to account for weather, wind direction, surface temperature, to the crew involved with loading and hauling the cars; it’s all mind-blowing when you stop and think about it. I know all motor sports teams deal with it, but to see it so up close makes it a more tangible experience.
- Green Park at Sebring is Spring Break for old men. Yes, there are many who partake in the festivities of the free-for-all that is Green Park (an open camping area on the north end of the track), but for the most part, it seems to be dominated by dudes looking at 40 in the rear view mirror and still trying to drink as if they were 20. If you’re looking for a crazy party atmosphere, Green Park is something you may want to experience. If you’re looking something a bit more family friendly, then Green Park is something you’ll want to avoid.
- There’s no escaping the sound of the race cars. They wake you up in the morning (practices start at 8:00), and the high-pitched whine of a car accelerating out of a turn will seep into your subconscious. Even in the moments between races and practices, you’ll swear you can hear cars running. It’s akin to having sea-legs after a cruise. I will probably hear the buzzing of race cars in my brain for the next week.
- There are a lot of innovative campers at Sebring. From makeshift disco lounges, to tents anchored by pickup trucks, to elaborate party zones, the campers at Sebring have merged the best of function, imagination, and craftiness when it comes to watching the race.
As the race comes to a close, I look back with a relatively proud, “been there, done that” attitude. Growing up in Florida, Sebring was something I’d always heard about, and it’s cool I am now able to say I’ve experienced it. In many ways, it reminds me of when I finally got around to watching a shuttle launch.
I’m eager to continue to check off the list things to do in Florida, and we’re already planning to do the 24 Hours at Daytona in 2016. But whatever the event or the destination, what makes it all worthwhile is being able to share those experiences with the people you love.