Friday, May 18, 2012

A View From the Pressbox

I’ve been pretty lucky in my career.  I get paid out of proportion to what my contribution to society probably is.  On good days I am better than most at what I do and as a result I am often in demand.  In demand to go speak to our clients, to travel to the main office and train members of the company on products I help create and on occasion speak at conferences to a wider audience in the profession about cool things we have done.

But for all of this to happen, I have to travel…at times a lot.  Despite how sexy and cool it sounds when you’re young, as frequently as not business travel when you are older can be a pain in the….  Take this week for example, cars on track all week at the speedway and I am in Connecticut for internal meetings and training sessions.  On top of that, my flight home Thursday night didn’t get me home in time to use my tickets of the Pacers beatdown of the Heat.

But in reality, weeks like this one are nothing compared to the opportunities that either arise with travel I must do or from the various airline and hotel points I gather from that travel.  I have been to Europe Five times and will be again next summer taking nephews as a graduation present.  Though trapped in Victoria, BC for 9/11, I took my rental car and drove home through Washington, Montana and South Dakota…Falling in love with the Northern Rockies and Great Plains along the way.  Through that journey and in that time discovering deep inside a pride in America that I did not have before.  I have been to 11 national Parks and seen some of the most beautiful places in the world. 
This past October we cashed a boatload of Miles and Hotel points and took Mrs JP’s agingnparents on a trip like they have never been on before.  We did a Canyon Country tour starting off by flying into Vegas (and was in attendance at LVMS on that unfortunate day).  From there we drove into Utah: Kollob Canyon, Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon, each step along the way more awe inspiring in its grandeur and scope.  I took bunches of pictures along the way (if for some reason you really want to see them, go here). 
Then south into Arizona for the Painted Dessert and the final stop…The Grand Canyon… our schedule only allowed for a single day at the canyon.  I put the camera away …this was a place that deserved more than I could do with a single afternoon.  For all the things I have seen, no single place had ever left me dumbfounded quite like this.  It was too large to comprehend, staggering and immense beyond description.  I have had instances and tastes of this feeling before: Descending from the Rockies onto the Great Plains for the first time, gazing at the gardens from the back “Porch” of Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich, traversing an Icy path six inches wide, staring down a 1000 ft steep slide to the bottom, on a Glacier in the national park bearing the same name. 
Why am I talking about all this stuff?  I am not trying to brag, but bring some perspective to something.  If you have read this blog long enough, you know that a couple years ago, I swore off using the blog as justification for getting press credentials to any race or event.  I thought I’d lose touch with what it meant to be a fan, that I would owe one to the man for eating from his table.  Not sure why, but last year at Iowa, I decided to request credentials and got them.  Part of it was to use the new camera that I was falling in love with and part of it curiosity.  Very few things in life have given me the rush that shooting from pit lane gave me that weekend, I was hooked. 
So for this year’s 500, I decided to request credentials for the 500 as well.  It didn’t quite work out like I imagined it might.  No Silver Badge to get on pit road, just the bronze I would have purchased anyway.  I also was granted access to the media centre and buffet.  Eating at the buffet means no track tenderloin so that privilege is a mixed bag.  Frankly at the Iowa media centre, I could not have felt more out of place.  An interloper in a place I did not belong.  I could just see the thought bubble from Curt Cavin as he stared at us “Who the hell are they?”
But today after taking a day of PTO, sleeping off the two nights of hotel induced lack of sleep and the sinus cold I get everytime I fly, I headed to the speedway and I used my credential to get into the media centre.  I took the elevator up to the fourth floor and the massive media room.  The place was perhaps 10% filled, Kevin Lee was voicing over track updates at his desk, Robin Miller was wandering around calling out other old timers.  I sat next to Paul Dalbey and James Black, familiar faces from the blogging ranks.   I didn’t do much, just watched lap times update on the screen above. 
Before I decided to pack it up and head home for the evening I grabbed the camera and headed out to the media cente terrace.  I walked to the front of the terrace and on my right, I could see down the main straight all the way into turn four.  On my left could see down the front straightaway until the Pagoda blocked the view of turn 1.  I then walked to the back of the terrace, I looked to the left and saw the all the way to the north Vista, panning to the right the NW vista came into view, to my right, the South and South west visas.  In my mind, the front straightaway and the stands that accompany it were behind me.
For the first time it really hit me, just how big of a place IMS really is.  For all my visits, I have just been looking at little isolated sections, never forming the complete gestalt in my mind.  But on the terrace today it struck me and it had a familiar flavor.  Not quite the strength of the Grand Canyon back in October, but the same feeling of smallness relative to something of massive grandeur.  I can only imagine how a rookie driver is going to feel a week from Sunday as they do parade laps through the massive tunnel of humanity.  I have been an IndyCar and 500 fan for a long time, but on the terrace this evening I finally felt for the first time, just how grand IMS, the world’s greatest race course, actually is.

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