“Do it no matter what…..if you do have a passion, an honest passion, just do it . . .” – Mario Andretti
Poky–But NOT Hokey.
Ah! Road Atlanta. Like a lover, only so much sweeter. I am still on a high.
Who would have imagined that I would get there in 2015? The plan had been in 2021. But the scoffing of Swami, the finger-wagging of Vader, and the gently smiling sweet encouragement of my Big T gave me heart and courage. Yes, me.
Phase I : Get to Braselton
April 26–Sunday prior to leaving I packed the car. Also it was Big T’s birthday. Even 22 years later, at the thought of him I just can’t help my goofy grin. Is that normal?
April 27–Monday: Work and try to breathe.
April 28–Tuesday: Same, but also get the Diva ready for 3 day field trip, get my chipped crown repaired, and wrap Cufflinks’ birthday gifts.
April 29–Wednesday: 18th Birthday! Legal voting age! Drop off baby Diva EARLY am at school, birthday dinner, gifts etc. Try to breathe.
April 30–Thursday: Taking emergencies, students packed in. Cannot breathe. Leave work for urgent care. Oxygen, nebulizer, steroids and rest. Seventeen hours later, Bianca and I begin southward. Practicing driving fast. The officer who stopped us was very kind and did not incarcerate me. And he subtracted 30 mph when writing the citation. I was trembling and crying for fear he may shoot me. Remember the steroids? Psychosis is a known side effect.
May 1–Friday: Writing furiously. Arson case in court Tuesday. Resting, breathing. Unexpected bonus: a desk in hotel room. Swimming. SwamiMike arrives! Happy to see him and the handsome #8. The last time we had met was before we became friends– and I felt such joy (remarkably, no awkwardness) at finally meeting my bud.
Phase 2: A Wish Come True
At 5pm, we headed for track to register and tech. “Bad news” Swami said, his eyes twinkling. “I’m your instructor. And we begin your instruction tonight.” He poured two drinks and pulled out a 3-Ring binder. We began a Track Walk.
A perfect evening. Gentle breezes rolling over the deep green tree-covered hills, and a quiet track. Background sounds wafting over: cars setting up and trailers unloading. The air felt dream-like amid the bird-song soundtrack. The slowly westward arcing sun warmed my skin.
Swami began to describe the topography of the turns. Eagerly, I drank in each word as he flipped through to show aerial image after image of each turn. Each one was detailed, with the perfect driving line drawn in red pencil. Meticulously he had marked out the apex, turning point, braking point and track out path. Seeing the turns from another angle was an eye-opening experience. I am ashamed to say that, in my ignorance, I naively responded “Sure. I can do that” when he described which curbing to touch and which gators to avoid.We got into his truck and began a perimeter drive of the track. Stopping and getting out at each turn, Swami explained the track. His relaxed pace, friendly manner, and sharing of historic anecdotes set me at ease. Would you believe me if I told you Swami remembers EVERY single crack on the track? And could tell where there was a new one?
Phase 3: Grass Handed to Me.
I did try to practice going fast in the straights by speeding during my drive into Braselton. As mentioned, I got stopped by an officer when I was cruising at XXmph. He let me off easy. It will be the cost of a track weekend essentially and I have already ‘fessed up to my sweetie BigT. What did I get out of it? Well: I know I can DO IT!
I struggled with basics on the first day. Sheer frustration at discovering that my brain had frozen in the face of the Esses. Did I no longer know how to downshift? Indeed, I did not. Poor Swami had to remind me. The famous combination of goofiness, cluelessness and optimism had failed me.
The second day I got in a couple of decent sessions. Consistency was at about 65% by the end of the weekend, and speed was still flagging. Wish I could have shown that to the cop.
Lots of damage was happening: SwamiMike called it a “crashfest”. I found driving with Chin was another ballgame entirely. The other cars in my
green run group were: 5 (FIVE!) ferraris, 1 maclaren, 1 aston martin, 1 maserati, 1 mazda, 2 M3’s and 2 or 3 caymans.
SwamiMike was disapproving of the lack of speed, but continued to encourage me. He recorded one session using his Gopro on my car. I could see my mistakes much more clearly. However, I continued to repeat them and we were both a bit deflated by the end of the weekend.
By last run Sunday, Swami says: “That was a good session. We didn’t come out under the bridge at the same point twice any single time.” I reminded him I was not in the “gifted and talented” program. I scored a D+ on the Chin grading scale.
Unsurprisingly, my sweet Bianca was the only one who shone. SwamiMike said “I’m very impressed with your car”.
Road Atlanta was a thrilling, challenging, and addictively fun course! I think I did sub-okay overall. I am not proud of my performance. But I learned the line. And was able to remain intact on an unforgiving track, in unforgiving car, on my first event there. There were many others that weekend who did not.
Phase 4: Drive Trophy Home
And, thanks to the heroic efforts of Mickie and Keith Madison of Goldcrest Motorsports in Kennesaw, GA, Bianca’s worn out rear brake pads and rotors were replaced! Within a hour, they had the parts. Keith himself, renowned for working on pro-racer cars, was so incredibly good to my Bianca and worked on her himself.
When I told him what happened, Swami said: “All that braking”. He was right.
I was happy to drive my beloved Bianca home. I love her. And I’ll be back at Road Atlanta in June with Vader.