Each year for the past forty years, I have attended the Indy 500. Over the past twenty years my daughters have come with me. Now in consideration for my friends’ questioning of my sanity, what sane person watches cars circling a track for three hours, it’s not just about the cars, even though 230 miles per hour is something you can only experience sitting 100 feet away, it’s so much more. It’s the adventure.
For us the weekend starts on Friday with our trek down to Lafayette, Indiana. It morphs into a golf tournament Saturday morning and then follows up with the annual reunion of the group of attendees, now numbering 30 plus, some who have traveled from as far away as Florida to the south and just below Canada to the north. Sunday morning, race day, finds us assembling our caravan in preparation for our drive to the track in Indianapolis. There we will tailgate with 350,000 other spectators for the greatest spectacle in sports. You see it’s not just the race, it’s everything that goes with it. If you are a people watcher, the sheer size of the crowd will hold you in amazement. If it’s the rush of speed, well there’s plenty of that and it’s not just the race cars driving fast but all the would be racers driving the highways into Indianapolis that Sunday morning. It’s the hoopla, the track, the parade. It’s the celebrities and the cameras. It’s the spectacle.
For me there is one more element that draws me back each year. This is my chance, at least once a year, to spend time with my two, now adult, daughters. When I was approached by my then 14-year-old daughter, asking to go with me for my annual “boys” weekend, I was taken aback. I explained the logistics of spending a long weekend with twenty some guys bent on talking about race cars and well…… being guys. I was only mildly surprised, after all she was already pretty headstrong, when she told me she was fully prepared to hold her own. When she explained in detail the workings of the cars and her knowledge of the drivers, I realized that this was to be our next logical adventure. Five years later, my younger daughter literally tricked her way into attendance and there were now two women fully integrated into the Wisconsin Indy crowd. Some twenty years later, they still hold sway each year and command respect from the guys and actually represent the “elder” version of the second generation. They make me proud each and every year as I listen to the reminiscing and the conversations they so comfortably center themselves into.
I have never regretted for a moment having two daughters as my only children. I was careful to give them every chance to be the beautiful women they are while letting them experience all the adventures a father would share with his son. The Indy 500 is just one of those adventures. Each year we plan and prepare for our trip, excitement growing through the entire month of May. It is seventy-two hours of conversations about life and goals and achievements, uninterrupted by other family members, apologies to my wife. It is a chance to bond and to share an experience with two people I love and respect.
It’s not just the race, it’s everything that surrounds it, but more than anything else, it is the adventure shared. Just a heads up, if you choose to argue the merits of this race with my daughters, you best do your homework.