Dad - 4,066 miles, 135 hours
I'm headed west on the Lincoln highway, and for the last 40 miles, I don't think I've moved the handlebars more than a few millimeters left or right. I'm on what has to be one of the most boring stretches of road in the United States, but for good reason. As I look down at my speedometer, I notice that myself and the other five cars around me are now slowly moving past 100 mph. I quickly pull myself out of this hypnotic state of mind, and chuckle as I notice another car in the distance whizz by at what must have been close to three times our speed. We've all just arrived. It's Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Pulling up to the entrance proper of Speed Week is less like entering a major sporting event, and more like lining up to enter the drive-in movie theater. Three lanes, marked by traffic cones, lead you to three teenagers handing out little stickers to put on your windshield in exchange for $20. Once past the initial set of cones, there's two sheets of cardboard taped to another set of cones, that have had the words "Starting Line" and "Pit Area" written in Sharpie, with arrows pointing in opposite directions. Past those two signs, its pretty much just salt, cars, bikes, and the occasionally placed orange cone.
I decide to head left toward the pit area first, and shorty after I take off in that direction, I start to feel like Mad Max racing through the desert. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, dirt bikes, you name it - all cruising across the salt on what seems to be like a 10 lane highway with variable speed limit. About 3 miles down I reach what appears to be a reasonable place to park my bike, and I head out on the salt to check out the pits. Once again, Speed Week proves to be on the more carefree side of things, allowing spectators to walk right up to any pit and strike up a conversation with mechanics, drivers, or other spectators about some high speed vehicle you're all ogling over. Hell if you asked I bet they'd let you hop in and maybe even take it for a spin.
As I was walking around the pits I heard another car shoot off from the starting line, so I ran over to catch the end of it. It was a streamliner that must have been 20 times longer than it was wide, and it was screaming down the salt. Once it had gone a few miles, it deployed its chute, and before it even had the chance to slow down, its entire back end flew up into the sky causing the whole car to spin out of control. Moments later a handful of cars went racing out to check on the driver to make sure everything was okay.
There's not really any PA system or anything considering the salt is so big, so after 20 minutes of trying to conjecture with other people as to what happened, I decided to head down to the starting line to see if I could find more information there. I ended up talking with a couple guys probably in their sixties or seventies that had been coming to the flats for close to 30 years now. They too didn't have any solid information on what was happening down track, but boy did they have a lot of knowledge to share. We talked about the history of the salt flats, Lake Bonneville, the types of cars and motorcycles that race, previous years' Speed Weeks, and even about the good old days street racing in Detroit when they worked at the Ford plant. They reminded me a lot of you actually pops - just a wealth of information and great at telling stories.
An hour or so later we finally found out that the driver was fine, but that the crash required the course to be rerouted. That was going to take at least a few hours, so I decided to cut my losses and head back to Salt Lake City.
While my trip to the salt was short lived and I only got to see one, maybe two, races, it was totally worth it. As a kid I can remember you telling me about driving through the Bonneville Salt Flats on your Harley and tasting the ground. Even if it wasn't Speed Week, I'd have taken the four hour round trip just to do the same. Thanks for lighting the way Pops, and for being one of the most bad ass role models around. Next time, let's make sure we're both out there.