Guest post: Dom’s American Dream

Its Monday 26th July 2010, 12.48pm, and I’m sat in Chicago O’Hare airport, my flight isn’t until 6pm but I’m here anyway, I can check in at 3 at least, the check out time for the hotel was at 10am, and car had to be back at 1pm before extra costs were incurred, and lastly all thoughts are of getting home now so have no desire to fill the time with anything else, well not quite… . I don’t have a blog nor do I want one but thought I’d take this void in time to note down the explosion of thoughts that have occurred over the last 72 hours. I’ve yet to decide if I’ll even post this anywhere, it may get discovered years after my demise (when I’m frozen) and it will offer an interesting insight into life in 2010, or I may post it tomorrow, where though I have no idea.

I’ve been dreaming of seeing the states since I was probably about 14 (i.e. ages ago), year in year out built that desire to greater and greater monumental levels, but only since finishing uni had that chance become feasible. As a HUGE Montoya fan it seemed stupid not to combine it with the chance to see him race again, it was 2006 since he was last and Silverstone, and where better than the home of American racing at the Indianapolis Motor speedway! Plus year in year out he always go well there, so seemed to be a good plan! Initially I thought about staying in Indy, but Chicago is down the road so stayed there. Chicago has always held a fascination to me; I have a secret interest in 30s America and what better encapsulates that than the Chicago prohibition era, the glam, the art deco, Al Capone etc. This originally spawned from watching The untouchables in probably about 1990, I saw it underage courtesy of my cousin and from then I was hooked on the place, I even bought Midtown Madness on the PC so I could drive around the city in all weathers.. Sad I know.

So a plan was hatched, Chicago and Indy in one hit, a decade of anticipation had built up to this, everything id ever seen in a movie I was itching to experience, I didn’t care for galleries and such I wanted to the everyday things, go to a Mall, a Target store, a 7-11, stop at stop signs, buy a slurpee, have a hotdog from a street stand etc, all silly stuff but there we go. I found a cheapish hotel, okish flights and bit the bullet, I will admit it would have been my least desirable option to do all this alone but needs must and I was sure I’d be far too busy to dwell!

Leaping forward in time there I was, standing, waiting in line in customs, my feet were stood, stood firmly on American soil, even if I was sent home now I thought, I’ve done it, I’m here! After an age I was through, unleashed upon America! What to do first!? Well that was easy, go get the car, leaving the airport I was hit by a raging inferno of heated humidity, this wasn’t Southern France, Spain type heat, this was 90% humidity with a heat index of 44 degs, I deemed this a suitable moment to take off my hoody… . Arriving at Hertz I was told there was no convertible, even though id booked one, but was given the option of anything they had on site. So there I was first time driving on the left in a bright red, brand new, super charged, Chevrolet Camaro V8…

The afternoon of the first day was spent doing the things I’d been longing to do, I went shopping at a ‘store’, I went and devoured the whole range available at a Taco Bell, I found a 7-11 and had a Twinkie, all that kind of stuff! I also visited the Volo Car museum, the draw? An Ecto 1 replica, it was thewrong coach builder model, but still it’s the first time I’ve seen any sort of quality replica so to see quite how big and cool they were was good. There was lots else to see, but to be honest you might as well just visit their site if you want to know what there was. Driving around all I can say is thank god for air con!! Oh and Mountain Dew is my new favourite drink!

The day spent in Chicago was epic, the weather was awesome, the place is stunning and I saw Transformers 3 being filmed! Originally I planned on getting a tour bus, but setting off on foot I decided to spend the day doing it that way, all part of the living it aspect and not just a tourist. I found several Untouchable shooting locations easily which was slightly surreal, I visited the Navy Pier, bit tacky but great views, millennium park was amazing, the bean thing was impressive and the peoples fountain thing with everyone wadding in it and big faces (look it up) etc was great! It’s a fab city and would recommend it to anyone, it perfectly fitted my interest in 30’s America.

Its easy to see why the brits are seen as rude, you get whole hearted deepest apologies and thanks for the most minimal of things, nearly bumping trolleys (yes trolley like supermarket trolley, NOT a tram) when shopping got a ‘oh my goodness I’m sorry’ followed by a smile and moving on. In UK I think you’d get an ‘ugh’ and shuffle past. Saying that, the ‘have a nice day’ continuously can grind a bit. Also its odd how many people have no idea of accents ‘Oooo are you Australian?’ Um no ‘Are you Irish?’ Um are you a retard?!  And just trying to get them to understand the queen’s English can be a struggle in itself, but it was all entertaining!

Speaking of shops, yes they’re big, but they’re empty, empty of people, empty of stock, I don’t mean bare bones, but whilst Americans are probably used to them, the ones I went into (BestBuy, Target, Toys R US, Kmart, Lowes, Menards etc) probably had no more on offer than all UK shops just spread very thinly across the shelves, if I saw shelves like that in UK its normally a store that’s on brink of shutting down. Still I was content finding a hotwheels delorean 🙂

Back at the hotel with my prize goodies I devoured all I could, I was impressed with the Holiday inn, cheap but couldn’t have asked for more, quick service, HUGE bed, view out across Chicago, fridge, ice, the usual. Was nice to get back and think the day through!

The day at Indy first involved a road trip of 190 miles. There is no doubt that I fell in love with the Camaro, it’s a gorgeous looking thing, pulled like train, and rode like er… something that rides well. It was comfy, smooth and a pleasure, if they did RHD ones id be tempted, the only down side… a best of 16mpg..! American roads are shit, pure and simple, I think basically there’s just too much of it to keep on top off, I’m never complaining about uk pot holes again, in places here there can’t have even been technically and road left for there to be a hole in! The expanse of tarmac was just left to its own causes I think, it was common to dodge round tyres sitting in the middle of the fast lane (will get to that in a min), I don’t think any lines ever get repainted as most were nonexistent which made it hard work and all the signs were just confusing. That being said Claire (that’s what I named the Camaro) kept me on the short and narrow, didn’t really get to stretch her legs much though, that fact every taxi looks like a police car didn’t help!!

Driver etiquette was confusing, there was very very very little speeding, even with no cop cars, no cameras, nearly everyone behaved, perhaps they weren’t in a rush? Lol. But lane behaviour was odd, perhaps there isn’t a fast or slow lane etc, it definitely appeared like a free for all! I stuck to the inside (outer right) and just hoped for the best. Finally driving on wrong side of car was easy enough as have done it before but many a time I managed to drop the right hand side of on the verge!!

Indy was like a carnival, LOADS of people and lots of food, drink and music. Seeing JPM again race gave me goosebumps, and yes I’ll admit when he took the lead my eyes welled slightly, it’s the lack of this emotion that makes F1 rather dull for me at the moment. But none the less he was on epic form, I won’t expand much on this day as to be honest it was a crap, the rowdy inbreds around me made it clear they wanted a hilly billy to win, I was glad I wasn’t wearing my JPM tshirt in the end. After moving 4 times and having to endure swearing, jibes, Columbian taunts and loudly cursing ‘shit F1’ (I was in my RF1 tshirt) all aimed at the fact it looked like JPM was going to win, once he hit the wall and the crowd cheered, jeered and mocked some more I split, id lost interest and hit the car park for an easy get away before the race finished. A tip to these low life’s, stay in school beyond 12 years old, it works wonders…! Unfortunately, even if it means cutting of my nose to spite my face I will no longer have any active interest in NASCAR, zero part of me wants to follow a series along with these barnyard imbeciles. If you think I’m sounding too dramatic it’s only because you didn’t have the displeasure of their company (apparently when you finish a beer you throw your can at the track, anyone remember Indy GP 2005 issue? I can only assume it’s the same sort of group of pinheads). I will still and always will, support JPM, but will now follow his progress from afar, I will still wear his hat in support (mainly because it cost me $20!) but that’s it, NASCAR is no longer part of me.

I may have picked a bad crowd (cheapo seats?) but impressions were made, and impressions last. I think now I will have to reengage my Dario interest back into 6st gear, bit mixed on the current situ with IRL at moment, but we will see. I was going to attend another NASCAR round later in year, but as I’ve said to someone, I’d rather stick hot pins in my eyes now. So, time to have a look at the IRL calendar and make a decision! 😀 East or West coast one most likely.

So here I am, back in airport, 4 days later, a dream fulfilled, having poured a whole litre of strawberry milkshake down my legs, over my bag, and suitcase though it’s a fitting end to the shite part. The first few days I would do again in an instant and indeed still have a plan to visit US in a few months, California this time, YES more movie locations to visit! But as I say Chicago was amazing, I will upload the photos soon and it’ll be clear to see what a beautiful city it is!! The last 36 hours I will forget about, I tend to be slightly OTT but that’s how it is, my highs are high and my lows are low. I will always wear my Chicago hoody with fond memories, the Brickyard 400 tshirt on the other hand I threw in the bin on the way out of Indy. The JPM hat though will be part of me more than anything, good luck with the racing JPM! I will miss you…

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7 thoughts on “Guest post: Dom’s American Dream

  1. Glad you enjoyed your trip to the US but sorry you got to see the bad side of our country as well as our good side. What you experienced is just the reason I prefer to watch things like NASCAR on the TV rather than in person.

  2. Good stuff, interesting impressions of the States 🙂
    As I said on Twitter, if you want to go back to Chicago and do IndyCar as well, there’s a race there in late August / early September.
    I’d love to go to Indy for the 500, apparently the Indy 500 crowd and the Brickyard crowd are totally different from what the IndyCar fans tell me.

  3. Dom, you are just like me. The first place I head to in a new place abroad is a supermarket, or anywhere local people go.

    I’m so sorry you had such a bad experience of such a xenophobic crowd at the NASCAR. I wonder if that’s related to the fact that you do have to be quite rich to go on in education in the States – we have it very lucky here, even in these times.

  4. Dom, thanks for tweeting & taking the time to write this. As a racing fan in Indy, it’s always fun to follow someone’s travels. I tweeted you before, but please don’t take a NASCAR event as something indicative of Indy or IMS, or even the US as a whole. I mean no disrespect to NASCAR, as I do know civil, intelligent, and open minded fans, but I’m pretty sure you could have attended any NASCAR race in the US & had the same experience. Just lurk the various US racing forums & you’ll catch a glimpse of ‘more of the same’.

    Btw, I speak without that experience. I’ve never attended the Brickyard 400, despite growing up in Indy & being a huge fan of racing. I hit every other opportunity to be at IMS though, MotoGP, F1, IndyCar, random series ‘test’ days. That place is amazing, but even moreso when you’re around true racing fans.

    If you ever get the opportunity to come to Indy again, do it right. There are various open wheel forums for IndyCar where there are thousands of us that are always willing to offer travel advice on Indy. Non-chain/Local dining, off the beaten path gems, bars/pubs, info on Downtown, etc. If you’re there for a race, the evenings don’t have to be a trip home, there’s always something going on downtown in the warm weather months. There’s a beautiful outdoor concert venue @ White River downtown, and it always seems like there’s some random street festival going on….and just north of the core downtown, there’s an area known as Broad Ripple Village…an area of town where there’s never a lack of nighlife, and a bar/pub for every walk of life. Clubs, take your pick of live music genre, etc.

    I realize I’m sounding like the tourist board, but I love this place. There’s a reason in the US that Indy has been picked to host events like the Super Bowl, and it’s not a transient NASCAR crowd (my apologies for the snobbery). Which is why it sickens me to hear about your experience at IMS. I know this is long winded, my apologies, I like to write. 🙂

    One poster mentioned the Indy 500 as a different crowd. By far. That said, the Indy 500 is really unique as far as crowd types go. You have a large percentage that are much like F1 crowds, you have a huge number of families, groups, corporations that make annual pilgrimages, you have the college crowd/party crowd, you have the IndyCar hardcore fans, the starstruck 20something groupies….and yes, even some of the same seedy underbelly of society you experienced via NASCAR (although far fewer in number). And an experienced veteran of IMS can likely tell you exactly where you can find ‘all the above’. For the Indy500 different parts of that massive track & stands are like separate cities.

    The Indy 500 is a true spectacle though. It manages to captivate and awe every demographic I described above (even if you only get the party crowd’s attention for 30 minutes or less). I’ve travelled the country going to racing events. You get a great atmosphere at many of them, Long Beach included, but nothing I’ve ever seen in racing is as exciting & inspiring as the Indy 500. It really can’t be put into words. It’s just something you have to see to understand (television can never substitute). There is a reason so many competitors and fans alike get so emotionally attached to Indy/IMS, that they can’t ever leave her embrace. I just hope that I can persuade you & the likes of pinkgineer to someday take in the Indy500. It should be on everyone’s bucket list , and I mean that with as little bias as possible. (I was a Swift supporter btw, for the record – the sting of the choice is only now waning thanks to the announcement that Lotus will participate in Aero kit production.)
    One final note. I can’t let it go. F1 2005. I was there, ground zero, I even have home video of the mob that formed & resulted in drinks being thrown at the track. I re-watched the whole thing on television, read the papers (local, national, global), and I can tell you without a doubt, the journalists accounts that it was US/Indy fans is complete rubbish. By 2005 the vast majority of the crowd was international. In our section alone (pit out, just past the Pagoda) which were probably the worst offenders, myself, my wife, and two of our friends were in a sea of Brazilian, Columbian, & European travelers. When the mob ensued we literally had never seen anything like it, we gathered our stuff and bunched up really tight. I grabbed my camera to film, but we wondered if we were even safe. People all around us were flooding down from their seats towards the catch fence. Trampling injury was a real possibility. My first thought was of global soccer (football) hooligans/mobs & the deaths that occur in situations like that.
    Those were not US citizens climing the catch fence and throwing beverages, and those around us (vast, vast majority) were undoubtedly not domestic. I say this with extreme confidence. Even in my video, it can easily be seen that many of the offenders are even wearing their Brazilian & Columbian flags. I know you work for F1, but the anti-Indy PR campaign that followed the event was a load of garbage. Those of us that are familiar with IMS & regularly attend events were appalled at the behavior, but also outraged at how it was reported as somehow being pegged as Indy/US driven. Many of the columns I read were completely unprofessional & horribly insulting to those of us who were actually there to witness the events. You can take this as anecdotal, but I know what I saw, and thus I always take offense when I hear it referenced. I just hope that Austin isn’t insulted and degraded the way Indy was with Bernie & his PR machine. I never stopped going, I love F1, but it would take a massive change in leadership for me to ever respect it’s bureaucracy. Austin, you’ve been warned. Whew, now that we cleared that up.

    Thanks for reading my novel (if you read it…hehe). I really enjoyed following your trip to the States. I hope to be in Europe soon, there’s a possibility of a future 2-year assignment for me with my employer, so there may be a time when I will need your advice on what to do, what to see, surrounding F1. If I’m going to be there for 2 years, I have to have a hobby.  Cheers, John.
    Oh, and the IndyCar fans, if they are true fans….can distinguish dialect. My guess is, many of us could even tell the region, urban/rural, etc.

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