Category: adventure [rss feed]

front row at the game

Can't complain about the front row seats! I’ve never been to a Pro football game before. Watching them on TV I never got a feel for the real scale of things.  I knew these guys were big and fast, but didn’t have a gut feel of how big or how fast.  I knew the stadium could hold around 68,000 people, but didn’t really understand in a visceral sense how many people that is.  Now I know the stadium is huge, yet even from the sky-high seats the Patriots are large enough to be seen clearly. But even more dramatic, I now understand how fast these guys are!  Holy Smokes!  They fly across that field.

Tom Brady making adjustmentsI lucked out Friday night when I was surfing Ace Ticket and noticed front row seats had just been posted at a “reasonable” price (what is reasonable when you are talking about football tickets?) and I managed to snag them before anyone else gobbled them up.

Having never been to a game I didn’t know what to expect so I browsed around looking for advice.  Everyone seemed to say you should leave two to three hours earlier than you think you need to leave due to the traffic. The parking lots open four hours before the game for tailgating and the place I was getting my tickets opens their tent four hours before the game as well, so I figured getting there too early wouldn’t be a problem.  Huddle at the edge of the fieldI decided to add to the usual travel time one hour for getting into the stadium, finding our seats, and getting any snacks or drinks or whatever, one hour for getting the tickets since I had no idea how long the line might be there, and one and a half hours for traffic.   I didn’t expect any of that to take that long but figured we’d play it safe and spend any extra time tailgating.

Since it was raining in the morning and we weren’t playing a rival team attendance was pretty low.  With that and the fact that we left so early, traffic turned out not to be a problem at all.  In the end we spent a little over two hours hanging in the parking lot.  But we had brought food, drinks, books, movies, and games for that time.  It sprinkled on and off during that time so we hung out in the car and stayed dry. Front Row 4 (tiny2) The rain stopped before we left the parking lot and the weather was beautiful for the rest of the day.

Getting into the stadium was a breeze.  We approached security about an hour before kickoff and it took no time to get through and into the stadium.  The three of us hiked up the ramps to the top so we could see what it would look like from the regular seats.  It’s quite high up there, but it was still easy to see the individual players practicing on the field despite the distance.  I think those seats would be entirely acceptable.  Once we made it back down to our seats in the front row we were blown away by how close to the field we were.  It was like we were sitting on the sideline with the players.

CheerFor much of the game there were kickers (punt or field goal) practicing in front of us, cheerleaders performing to the left or walking straight in front of us, the mascot coming by and fist bumping us, the offense or defence on the sidelines just to the right of us, and the camera truck passing back and forth.  We even ended up on the big TV screens for a minute or so near the end of the third quarter. It felt like we were part of the game.

The Pats aren’t doing that well at the moment since they have so many new players in the starting lineup, so I picked the Tampa Bay game because I thought the Pats had a good chance of winning against them anyway and I wanted my kids to see a winning game.  Sure enough, we won 23-3.  It was a great game for the kids to see.  We had an excellent day.  My kids haven’t stopped talking about it and I’m sure it is something they are going to remember for years to come.  I still remember when my uncle took me to see a Bruins game when I was a kid.

Plays happening right in front of us

Posted in adventure | Leave a comment

driving an indy car

Ready to race

Ready to race!

There’s nothing like a little speed in your life.  I recently had an opportunity to drive an Indy car on a race track.

It was a lot easier than I expected. Everything I had heard or seen leading up to it suggested that it would be difficult.  People talked about how hard it was to move the steering wheel, press the brake, or press the clutch.  I heard that staying on the line would be difficult since the steering wheel requires such a small movement to make a significant turn.  I kept thinking about shifting since I don’t drive a manual transmission all that often any more. Listening to the training beforehand there seemed a million details to keep in mind.  It turns out none of that was a concern.  It was very easy and just about anyone can do it, even if you’ve never driven a manual, if you are just doing a simple “racing experience” as a tourist and not trying to be a pro race driver.

The experience begins with an hour long class.  During this class they make it clear exactly what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do.  Basically it boils down to, “Do whatever your instructor tells you to do over the radio, when he says to do it, and how he says to do it.”  They make it abundantly clear they will ask you to leave if you don’t listen and follow the rules.  They can enforce that if needed by remotely killing your engine.

Racing suitWhile driving you will be wearing a race suit, a helmet, and a pair of ear phones.  You will be wired to the car and will have a two way radio link with an instructor the whole time.  The instructor will let you know what you need to do each step of the way as you get there.

Getting into the car is a bit tight.  The walls touched my shoulders the whole time.  They strap you into a five point harness until it is “comfortably uncomfortable”, as they call it.  Getting back out requires a little thought, but is fairly easy.

When you first get into the car it is in gear and the engine isn’t running.  You push in the clutch and they push you with an ATV to get you rolling, then you pop the clutch and the engine starts. That’s the last time you need to touch the clutch.  The whole race is done in first gear. Without having to shift at all, there goes that concern.

As I mentioned before, this car is very easy to drive.  It does exactly what you tell it to do. It goes exactly where you tell it to go.  There isn’t any ambiguity.  The steering wheel is directly connected to the front tires and there is zero play.  Each little twitch of the wheel sends the car in a new direction, but it feels very intuitive and smooth and is not difficult at all.

It feels like the car is riding on very smooth rails.  Hitting a tight corner at 100 MPH isn’t a problem at all, other than the G’s pushing your body into the cockpit wall.  This car wasn’t even breathing hard.  Although it felt very fast to me, I wasn’t anywhere near this car’s maximum potential.

Your first lap has to be a slow one so you get used to the car and track.  Then on each lap they’ll let you go faster than the previous lap as you prove you can handle the car and follow instruction.

At one point I caught up with another car and matched his speed about two car lengths behind him as we entered a turn.  Two thirds of the way through the turn I heard my instructor say, “Pass him.”  I pressed the gas and accelerated so fast that as I blew by him it looked like he was standing still.

The car is very low to the ground and you are practically laying down.  This means your eyes are only a couple feet off the road, about the height of a typical desk.  Travelling down the road at 117 MPH with your eyes so close to the ground and the turn approaching fast, it seems like you are rocketing along.  It was an excellent experience and I thank my wife for that Christmas present.

If you try this, get the longest time you can afford.  I spent eight minutes driving and it was over in a flash.  I would have loved to have had more.  Also, the more laps you do the faster they let you drive…


My wife said at first she could catch the car with the camera, but by the third lap I was going too fast.

Posted in adventure | Leave a comment