This is part five of an eight-part series recounting my first motorcycle trip.
The road I traveled, Highway 127, was beginning to look familiar. Having driven to Adrian, Michigan, a number of times before I had been on many of the surrounding roads, though this day I was in familiar territory by proximity, not planning. At a most unlikely crossroad a small sign pointing left directed, “Michigan International Speedway Traffic and Drivers.” I turned left.
Mark, a friend with whom I’d be spending the weekend, was at the speedway that day to experience the full capability of his Dodge Challenger SRT. I had no intention of going to the track on my way to his house – some thirty miles further on – but after stumbling upon this road I could find no reason to ignore it. Mark was sharing his only guest pass for The SRT Track Experience with our mutual friend and fellow car guy, Terry. In the week leading up to my trip Mark expressed regret that he could not get me in to the event as well. As I rode toward the track I did so without expectation.
The road ended at a T, forcing me to chose left or right with out visible clues. I chose right and came to an open gate with a sandwich board imprinted with the letters “SRT.” I approached a guard shack, appropriately occupied by a grey-haired man sporting a clipboard and black rain slicker, and inquired about entry. Expecting to be turned away, I was surprised when he had me sign my name on the clipboard while he provided verbal directions to the event’s pavilion. Perhaps he figured a person riding a motorcycle in the rain seeking access to a performance-driving event must belong there, and by not questioning my credentials he also did not question my sanity.
The pavilion was nearly empty – just a few employees of The SRT Track Experience killing time while the participants and remaining staff were on the track. In the distance I could hear the occasional angry growl of a big bore engine accompanied by the cry of wide, low profile tires clawing for traction. It was mechanized call and response, not church but certainly a religious experience for those of the big bore faith. Believing I had gotten as far as I would, I nevertheless asked some staff where the participants were and I was immediately offered a ride to the track by an attractive young woman with a damp ponytail protruding from her SRT baseball cap. As we approached her car I commented, “Sexy.” She asked, “Me or the car?” I quickly confirmed she was, as well as the car. The ponytail has always been a weakness of mine.
The unrelenting rain hastened the event’s end. Traction on the track was marginal and the parking lot had become a navigable water system. Puddles boiled and popped as each .50 caliber raindrop penetrated their surface. The din in the metal building reduced communication to creative hand signals and silently mouthing “What?” in an exaggerated manner. While the invited participants sprinted to their leather-appointed cars in a pointless attempt to remain dry I, the uninvited biker, walked purposely to my Raider, allowing no puddle to change my course or cadence. Walking through the flooded lot to a motorcycle, while the others sprinted to their climate-controlled cars, added the equivalent of an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Rain Badge I had earned earlier that day. As a freshman biker, it seemed, I was an overachiever.
I followed Mark to his house, relieved to follow his taillights rather than navigate the last few miles myself (I can drive any distance without trouble but I will always get lost within two miles of my destination). At Mark’s house both his Challenger and my Raider were parked in his spacious Carriage House, each, I’m sure, happy to escape the elements and looking forward to a bath the next day. By the time I pulled a bed sheet to my chin that Friday evening I had been awake for forty-one hours.
Turn right at your next crossroad….