For my husband’s recent BIG birthday, I wanted a unique gift.. something memorable, something he’d never get for himself. Another shirt just wasn’t gonna cut it, but I couldn’t think of anything really cool. Then my friend Sara suggested a Driving Adventure through DriveTech. My husband would, after a short class, get behind the wheel of a real Nascar and speed around the huge 2 mile track at California Speedway for 30 minutes. Perfect!!
I got him all signed up and paid for it (no refunds means no chickening out!), then surprised him at breakfast on his birthday. He seemed excited but maybe not AS excited as I had hoped. Oh well, the Driving Adventure was still a few weeks off at that point, so there was plenty of time for him to get psyched up for it.
Last Saturday was the big day. On the way to the track, I read all the driver information aloud, and I started to get really scared. These are powerful machines! One false move, and SPLAT, into the wall! The paperwork said to be careful about the shoes you wear.. anything too wide could accidentally depress both the accelerator and the brake at once (not a good thing). Bob wears a size 14 shoe! His huge Bozo feet would certainly depress both levers, wouldn’t they? It started raining on our way there, which didn’t do much to ease my fears. I remember saying, “If you don’t want to do this, that’s ok. Who cares about the money.” and he gave me a look that clearly said, “Are you NUTS?” He wasn’t scared at all and was really looking forward to it.
When we arrived, Bob was instructed to put on the driving suit. I have to say, he looked pretty studly in it! Then we waited around for a couple of hours. Rain had delayed the morning classes so everything was pushed back. Fortunately the rain had stopped a couple hours before and the track was dry.
When it was time to get started, Bob’s class was taken out in a van to tour the track. This was done with race cars flying around the track and the van at top speed. Then they were supposed to have a one hour class. The kids and I got settled in the bleachers to wait, but then 10 minutes later the class was over. When I asked about it, Bob said the instructor was confident that they knew enough to get going. What?? After 10 minutes?? I think they were trying to make up for the rain delay, but I was very uneasy about Bob getting behind the wheel after such minimal instruction.
Size matters in a race car. If you are taller than 6’7″ or heavier than 270 lbs., you won’t fit into the car. Bob barely made the cut at 6’6″, but it was a tight squeeze. Watching him get in through the window was comical. He needed help shoving his shoe in!
The windshield is so small and low that it’s difficult to see out of it. He was too tall to see out the rearview mirror and had virtually no wiggle room. Only the necessities are there in the car, nothing else. The driver is basically sitting on the floor, and every blip and bump on the road can be felt. Everything is intensified- accelerating, turning, braking. You have to rely on instructions being spoken into an earpiece as you’re driving. If a car is getting ready to pass you, they will say, “Car 17, Get Down!” and that means you are to go to the left and take your foot off the accelerator. Bob said he had to just trust the ‘voice’ because he couldn’t see behind him. He was going about 100 miles an hour. That was a relatively comfortable speed for him, but he was getting lapped repeatedly by his classmates.
It was such an intense experience. He couldn’t take his eyes off the road for even a split second. When it was time for a pit stop, the kids and I ran out and spoke to him. He was smiling but also a little freaked out. The kids said, “Put the pedal to the medal, Daddy!” and “Go faster, Dad!” so after the pit stop, he picked up the pace. It was nerve wracking to watch.
Finally it was over. His hands were sore from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, but my racecar driver was exhilerated and happy and, I think, glad it was over. He was getting ready to change out of the driving suit when we remembered we’d also paid for a “Drive with a Pro”, 10 minutes in a car with a professional driver. So Bob got into another car, strapped in, and held on for dear life!
This time, he was in the car that was lapping everyone else. Zipping around the track at 155 miles an hour was a white knuckle experience. His first words after the ride were, “Holy Crap!”
I think he’ll remember this present for awhile!