“When the winds go cold and it blows October,
I think about us shoulder to shoulder,
Like those cars my thoughts roll over and over and over,
In my mind
Tonight I’m in Talladega, boys raised up,
Whiskey in your glass, here’s to turning up,
Slowing down and cars that go real fast,
We were laughing and living, drinking and wishing,
And thinking as that checkered flag was waving,
Sure would like to stay in
How appropriate that my 40th high school reunion and the Talladega race fall on the same weekend. Eric Church’s song isn’t about racing… it’s about a time in your life that stands out… that you’ll always remember.
I absolutely loved my time at Darlington. I was fortunate in that I ended up getting to do just about everything I wanted to do in terms of extra-curricular activities, and the group of people that I hung out with were the ones who were very competitive in terms of grades, so those stayed up as well. It was the full package, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Sure… there was the usual teenage girl drama… and I was truly a bit of a nerd (which sometimes made me somewhat of a target)… but I figured out later that being a nerd was ok and paid off in the long run.
So, I’m headed for the class reunion tonight with memories of 40 years ago swirling in my mind. All of us who are going are bringing years of experience with us, and we’re all much different people than we were then.
As for Talladega…. it’s the first track at which I was able to see a race in person. It was right after my mom had been hospitalized in a very difficult situation, and it was touch and go right up to the morning of the race as to whether we’d be able to go. But her caregivers, God bless them, assured me it would be ok, and we drove over in the middle of thunderstorms (which were a fitting metaphor for the week before).
When we reached the track… surrounding it was a sea of campers, and it was the largest sports facility I had ever seen (Remember, it’s a 2.66 mile track with 33 degree banking). We had purchased a package that allowed us pit road access – and we did that in the rain. The race was delayed a bit… but the clouds cleared and the sun shined and finally the engines roared to life.
It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’d ever heard, and I had tears streaming down my face, because I’d finally made it to Talladega.
In the years since, we’ve been back every year. I’ve crossed a bucket list item off by seeing Dale Jr. win a race there. And we’re going again this weekend to make another memory.