America has it’s share of favorite family past times. Football, baseball, soccer. On any given Saturday you can find parents packing up the family SUV with coolers, blankets, sunscreen and snacks galore. They’re headed for the field, the kids proudly donning their crisp clean uniforms bearing their team name and number.
And then there’s the family who heads to the track.
Dirt track or asphalt track. Pick your poison.
In our family specifically, it’s the karting track.
My husband is the main culprit. He started his obsession by digging out my horse’s pasture and turning it into a makeshift “raceway”. Then he invited his buddies over with their yard karts and off they went. You should’ve seen all the men from around our neighborhood appear from out of the woodwork when those motors cranked up that first day. It was like a call of the wild. Wide-eyed menfolk in a trance. Climbing over our fence, walking out of the woods or peering through their windows, just to catch a glimpse of those loud, yard-kart noisemakers invading our quiet little street. It was like some kind of a movie, the Walking Dead Meets Days of Thunder. We met neighbors that day that we had never seen before. Go-karts are man-magnets. Go figure.
Fast forward a year or two, and hubby is now attending real races at a real raceway with much more powerful karts than what he started with. After fifteen years of watching him leave me behind to go have fun, I decided to tag along. And here’s what I found.
Karting is a family affair. On any given Saturday, parents from all walks of life hook up the family truck to the race trailer, hauling their precious cargo to the local speedway. Oh, and they’re bringing their kids, too.
Starting the day early in the morning with clean shiny karts, spit-polished tires and revving motors. Ending the day late, many times well after midnight, drenched in mud or red-clay dust. Lamenting the blown motor parts and reeking of gawd-awful smells coming from the tire prep they used. It’s just a part of racing, they say.
With classes available for both the big kids (Dad) and the little kids (Junior), the day is jam packed with opportunities to win that coveted first place ribbon or trophy. Just who has the fastest kart or best wheelman?
Watching the kids is always fun. They suit up in their racing jackets, some proudly displaying their last name, and help Dad push the kart to the grid as they tighten down their helmets. They are focused. They have a job to do and they take it seriously. Dad will give last minute instructions, help them crank the kart and off they go. They fly around the track faster than I ever would. I don’t know how kart-moms do it, watching their offspring zoom so fast, sometimes slamming into each other like bumper cars. It makes me nervous. But that’s another blog for another day.
To pass the time between classes, kids will comb through the trailer-parking lot, looking for their favorite driver to sign their autograph book. They wear the standard “uniform”, their favorite race t-shirt from the last big money race that they went to with Dad.
The younger ones live for playing in the dirt while big brother or big sister clock their fastest (or slowest) time on Race Monitor. You can’t beat the smiles on their faces as they build their sand castles in the Georgia red clay. Not too sure, though, of what their kart-moms think about that laundry when they get home.
Kart-moms (and wives) are a whole different breed. They either participate right along with Dad, by washing tires, pushing karts around the track, and doing whatever needs to be done to get race-ready. Or some, like me, prefer to sit quietly on the sidelines, scrolling through Facebook if they’re lucky enough to get a cellphone signal.
But they’re all rooting for their child, win or lose. Or rooting for their hubby. Sometimes it’s the hubby that needs consoling after a loss more than Junior!
I think my favorite part is seeing the older “kids”, in their 20’s and 30’s, still packing up and going to the track with Dad. It’s a lifetime of enjoying a hobby together as a family. Fathers and sons. Daughters too. Building their fastest motor in their family shop or garage, racing it, and proudly taking their picture together in the winner’s circle. It’s heartwarming. Hopefully someday my hubby will get the chance to bring a grandchild out and teach him (or her) the ropes of winning and losing with integrity and sportsmanship.
For many families, kart racing is a way of life. My husband loves it… but alas, it’s not my first choice of weekend entertainment. I prefer time spent with my horses, chickens, and bunnies. My college-age daughter did not inherit the kart-gene either, but instead worships the world of makeup, nail salons and things that smell good (not tire-prep!).
But perhaps someday I can convince my daughter to accompany me on a pretty Saturday afternoon, to watch dear ole’ dad and his latest motorized “experiment” dominate the field at the local raceway. And maybe, just maybe, meet my future son-in-law… so that one day I can watch my future grand-babies play in the dirt, building sandcastles out of GA red clay!