I am not sure what I enjoyed most about the 'Formula 1 weekend'. However, I am positive as to what I enjoyed the least! Circumstances beyond our control certainly prevented the best from being the last.
Our trip to the 'Fan Fest' was short. I would have been quite happy staying at home while Edward and Samantha took off and spent hours tracking around the different stands. I relented when I could not resist the pouting, and comments which included, 'but we always....'. Fortunately, it was not as busy as I had anticipated, and there were a lot of events that we had taken part in the previous year, which we felt was unnecessary to repeat. After all, you can only have so many pictures standing next to a vertical racing car! Once I had collected yet another pair of sunglasses, two promotional necklaces, and spun the wheel to receive 25 cents off my next 20 gallons of petrol purchased at any Shell station, I was ready to go. As we meandered back, we found a booth that was promoting vehicles (by now I didn't really take much notice of the make, let alone the model) with free champagne tasting (nothing like promoting drinking and driving) at 2, and Thai food a couple of hours later. Unfortunately, the champers was delayed, and the Thai food looked like it was going to be enhanced by the french grape at 4. We decided not to wait, and headed back to the office to pick up the car.
After a very early breakfast on Sunday at our new favourite haunt, The Egg and I, where I thoroughly enjoyed my Wisconsin Scramble, Dana suggested it would be much better for us if he dropped us at the entrance to the track, as the shuttles drop-off point was about two and a half miles away. I was not opposed to walking, but as he does not enjoy the past-time, he advised against the option. We left home at ten, and battled road works for a while, before reaching the cobbled way which led to the main entrance, to the Circuit of the Americas, (or COTA as it is affectionally known) about half a mile away from the road. The sun was high in the sky, and there was not, at the time, a cloud to be seen. There were several helicopters which were taking the rich and famous (actually, most just affluent I think) to their private viewing stations, but we did not get a glimpse of any stars! As we approached the security table, which was sitting precariously upon some uneven ground, I waved my unopened bottle of water at the guard, and he smiled and waved me on. We had not brought our folding chairs, as we were not sure how far we would have to walk, but had folded up cushions in our backpack, which proved to be a welcome accessory. During my accent stage of decorating the house, I had bought many fillers which I had planned to make into beautiful scatter cushions, but after having exhausted the places to scatter, the excess had remained in a cupboard under the stairs. Never, when questioned in the shop, 'oooh what are you going to do with these', did I ever think the answer would be, 'sit on them at a Formula 1 race!'
The crowd were very good tempered, as is mainly typical of any Austin get together, and cheered loudly as the drivers were driven around in vintage cars, and responded to the waves in kind. The 'British' contingency could be seen from our viewpoint, and the Union Jacks were flying, along with the Finnish flags and those of the supporters of all other regions. Unfortunately for the Finns, Kimi Raikkonen had been taken into hospital, but his team mates had a 'get well Kimi' poster stuck to their car. After a procession by the Texas Longhorn band, and a dance by their cheerleaders, we were treated to a performance by the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, the latter of which to most who were surrounding me, and including me, appeared to be quite unimpressed. Then came the National Anthem. As patriotic as I am for my birth country, there is something very vibrant about that of my adoptive home when they honour their nation. All was quiet as the singer stood at the top of the tower, and began. Once she had sung the penultimate line, 'land of the free', she paused, and the crowd erupted in 'whoops' and 'hollars', The goosebumps did not fade until the final 'and the home of the brave', had been sung in resounding harmony, and the cheers of the crowd had subsided. We all rose as the race finally started and then sat down again, as the 'safety' car took pole position, as one of the cars spun off the track during the first lap. After lap three, the space between all the drivers was such that we were constantly able to view a car turning on our corner. Fortunately, there were no more accidents and the crowd cheered as the commentators reiterated verbally what we were watching on the screen, and drivers overtook their team mates, with the leader being very much unbeatable. I watched as all in our area discarded their empties in accordance with the 'Don't Mess with Texas' litter campaign, and then I went to get a coke from the vendor, as the heat was draining, and I needed some sugar. Samantha's imitation of me was very good. 'I can feel my teeth rotting', she mimicked, as she took a swig from the bottle. My favourite line when drinking soda. However, sometimes I just need a little something to boost the energy level, and $5 for the experience, although excessive, was well spent. Despite our wanting to see Louis Hamilton retain the 'Austin' title, it was not to be, but there was no need for disappointment, as Sebastian Vettel cruised over the finish line, and we saw F1 history being made. As he made his victory lap, he drove off road just where we were sitting, and spun his car in a donut to the applause of everyone around us. Samantha received a text from her friend saying, 'I hope you got that on video!' She sent back a series of quick take photos which captured the spin.
We removed our earplugs, (which we had been advised to wear) and watched the presentation before deciding to leave, as the concert that was to succeed the race would not start for a while, and the heat was starting to get unbearable. A few clouds had hovered overhead, but they did little to quench the fire. Samantha called Dana to say we were ready, and he reluctantly said he would leave the office immediately, having taken sometime to reach downtown from our alighting, Our instructions were to 'go down to Jacobson', which is the road off that on which the entrance to the track sits. At the junction, a policewoman stopped the traffic so that we could cross. When I hesitated, her look was like another one of those 'Don't mess with....' slogans, and I realised that if I did not cross at this point, I may end up in her car, for obstructing justice! In retrospect, this probably would have been a good option! Like most rural areas, there was no pavement, and we followed the Green Cross Code and walked facing the traffic. Buses went hurtling by, which were taking people back to the car-parks, and we wondered if it would not have been a better idea to have driven ourselves to one of the designated lots, or to have taken the shuttle from the Convention Center, and walked the two and a half miles. At least we would have had an idea of where we were heading. We were separated from the open spaces to our left by bushes, which occasionally rustled, and made us jump, as we had no idea what was lurking within. About a mile down the road we called Dana again, who said that he had intended us to stay on the corner of Elroy and Jacobson, and he would have picked us up there. Trying to explain that the police would not allow us to simply loiter around the junction, and insisted that we move on, was not very easy, as the phone signals were intermittent. I heard a series of words that included, 'should', 'stayed', and 'have', but the signal eventually failed altogether. After another half a mile or so, Dana called back to say that he was unable to follow the same route as he had when he dropped us off. The officers directing the traffic were not allowing cars to head back to the track. I suggested he tell them that we were stranded along the way, and there was no other way round. When he said, 'they don't care, they just told me to move on!', I felt a slight sense of smug satisfaction as the phone broke up again, with me uttering the words, 'could', 'stayed', 'have' and 'not'. (Although not necessarily in that order!) After attempting to connect a few more times, we realised that it was not such a good idea to continue along the path we were taking, as it was probably not the right direction. Crossing over and walking on the other side of the road towards the original 'meeting place' was less than pleasant. Residential dwellings were on the other side of the road, and all very different to each other. A large house, surrounded by a brick wall and iron gates was next to a wooden framed habitat, with a fence which caged two very ferocious, growling, dogs. When they realised they could not actually leave the area, despite their teeth looking large, and strong enough to cut through the wire, they started to chase the goats in the same yard, which were laughing at their attempt to break free and bring home human supper! Several houses down the road, Dana called again to give a progress report. It appeared that he had taken a loop around the area, and was now heading to where he had originally dropped us, albeit from the opposite direction. He had been on the road for an hour and a half, and was rather frustrated. Attempting to sound sympathetic was not easy as we had been walking for the same amount of time, with the sun beating down on us and the temperature rising above 90 degrees.
Having drunk two bottles of water, and a coke, to keep hydrated, both my daughter and I were in need of the ladies, and wondered if we would have to spend the night under the stars. The residents in the mobile home that was on a corner plot did not look like they would be accommodating, and as the sun was starting to set, I wanted to get to a more crowded place. Although the people were not particularly sociable, they were not offensive, but I was more concerned about the Texas wildlife that comes alive after dark. I had managed to step on an anthill as we returned. Jumping around and kicking the air with my foot, following by treading on my own toes to try and get rid of the final marching insects, did little to calm the next set of canines that smelt the blood of an Englishman! Swinging calmly in a sun lounger, the occupant of one particular property looked on, without blinking. Finally, we returned to the corner of Elroy and Jacobson, and called Dana to get a current update of his plight. 'Are you coming down, Elroy?', I asked innocently, 'The track is on your left, isn't it?', I continued, to confirm that we were all on the same page. 'I am coming north', was not a very good answer. Having been bitten up one leg by an army of ants, and being chased by a hungry pit bull, along a fence that would only need a sneeze to cause it to fall down, a lesson in compass reading was not on the top of my list of things to do for the rest of the day. Perhaps my voice was raised slightly when I repeated, 'left or right, where is the track', but my frustration was obvious, as I heard a very distinctive, 'left', followed by the retaliation, 'if I was going down the road, I would be going south!'
We loitered. We stood on the corner and loitered. I was regretting not loitering earlier, as my leg started to swell and the bites were irritating more than the situation. The same policewoman ignored us, as she was having to endure angry motorists, who could not go north, up Elroy, and were having to turn on to Jacobson. Dana did not argue when he was ushered along as he must have seen me dancing by the curb, as, once again, I had managed to disturb the biggest ant reunion this side of a Disney camera! I jumped into the car, shaking off the small dark creatures that had not made it to my ankles, and slammed the door, as Dana put the car into gear and we headed down the road to the next traffic jam. Taking an hour to go ten miles is not unusual to some, but on a Sunday afternoon, it normally does not take more than fifteen minutes. As I said in the beginning, we did NOT save the best until last!
Although the trip home was not as pleasant as it could have been, as I dosed myself with antihistamine, and sat with ice-packs to reduce the inflammation, I enjoyed watching the re-run of the race on the television and was pleased to have been part of the afternoon. My shoulders were slightly red, as was my nose, even though I had worn a cap. By Monday morning the latter events of the previous afternoon blurred into oblivion, and we told all who would listen of the excitement of the day. To those that are not fans, it is difficult to explain that watching cars racing around, and around....and around a track is compelling, and exhilarating. I would definitely do it again! Fortunately, the race was not a week later, as I am sitting watching a wintry storm pass through. With Thanksgiving approaching, this weekend was full of preparation and although it may seem to be mundane, the purchasing of a turkey and other such items, is worthy of .............. another story.