It’s Not Too Early To Plan Your Month Of May

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The new year is not even two weeks old. The Christmas decorations are barely settled back into their boxes. There is still a lot left in the NFL playoffs and there has not been a single NHL game played yet. But I have already begun making preparations for attending this year’s Indianapolis 500.

The tickets won’t be here for another six or eight weeks. After ten years of baking in the sun while sitting in the Pit Road Terrace, we are moving our group of twelve across the track to Stand A. Although the new seats have been confirmed through the IMS website, I’m still looking forward to holding the new tickets in my hand. I’m old school and I still trust hard copy more than something I see online.

I still consider seeing that unmarked, plain blue envelope holding the tickets as the first sign of spring. But around early February, I usually get a jump on spring by booking my hotel reservations. For whatever reason, I decided to move up that ritual to early January – so I booked our reservations this week.

Living in Nashville, we are about four hours from Indianapolis. For years, the night before the race, we stayed in an overpriced $200 room at a Lee’s Inn in Greenwood – just south of Indianapolis on I-65. We would get up, go to the race and then drive all the way back to Nashville after the race. It made for a grueling day but we saved $200 by making it a one-night trip. I justified it by spending Memorial Day Monday recuperating.

With the rain delay in the 2007 race, we were still stuck in traffic inside the track after 8:00pm. No one could stay awake at the wheel, but we somehow rolled back into Nashville at 3:30am. As I lay comatose all through Monday, I swore I would never do that again. Even with a body that was six years younger than it is now, I was much too old to be doing that. Susan found a nice place in Columbus that was only $89 a night. It was thirty miles further away, but we could stay two nights there cheaper than one night at Greenwood – and it was a much nicer hotel.

Beginning in 2008, that was our home base for every Memorial Day weekend, including this past year. We would drive up on Saturday morning, check in and drop off our stuff and then head to the track. There’s never a whole lot going on at IMS on the Saturday afternoon before the race. But that did nothing to keep us away. We would always take in the museum and go to the gift shops to load up on souvenirs. Then, as the late-afternoon shadows covered the front straightaway, we would manage find an unattended gate so we could go check out our seats to make sure they somehow hadn’t vanished since the weekend before. That’s when I would always manage to separate myself from our group and just stand there and gaze at the track.

There is something almost surreal about a deserted Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What is certain to be controlled chaos in the morning, is calm and peaceful the day before. While bedlam reigns on Georgetown Road, just on the other side of the stands – it is a strange quietness that engulfs the Speedway inside. Those few moments of quiet time away from everyone else and taking in the historic oval is, oddly enough, one of my favorite times of the entire race weekend.

We would then pile up and head back to Columbus, over an hour away. There we would eat a quiet meal and go to bed with some remnants of daylight left. Why so early? Because in order to be at the track by 8:00am, we must leave Columbus no later than 4:30. That means a wake-up call at 3:30, which is 2:30 Nashville time. Ouch!

By the time the race is over, and I wrap up my final post of the day, it is probably 6:00 and we would still have to fight traffic leaving the track. By the time we would get back to Columbus, it is 7:30 and I would still be as tired as if I had driven back to Nashville. I’m usually sunburned and very dehydrated. I have almost fallen asleep at a restaurant in Columbus just after the race. That would be an exhausting day for someone half my age.

So, I went on a quest. I was determined to find a decent hotel near the track for a decent price. I figured it would take a while, so I started in early January. I was badly burned by Expedia.com when we went to the IndyCar awards banquet last month, and I’ll never use them again – so I figured I would just troll through the internet until I found something on my own. I started with the hotel we stayed in for qualifying weekend last year. Nope. I’m still not paying $225 a night for what is normally an $80 room.

I tried many others. Either the price was too high, I either didn’t know the area or I was leery of the property. It was exasperating. Then I found it. I knew exactly where the hotel was, I had seen it on numerous occasions and it looked fine. I know and like the chain. The price was well-below $200 and the location was perfect – on the west side, inside I-465 and relatively close to the track without being too close to dealing with all the partiers.

I’m fired up. I feel like we should be able to get a lot more sleep and not have any distance at all for a round trip between our hotel and IMS. We’re also going up on Friday this year – not to take in Carb Day. I’ll leave that to the younger crowd. Instead, we’re going to take in the Carb Night Burger Bash on Friday night for my first time ever. I’m already looking forward to it.

What are your race weekend rituals? Last year’s month of May will never be topped for me personally. I mean, how can you match the thrill of getting married at IMS the night before Pole Day? But this year’s is already shaping up to be quite memorable, in its own right – and it’s still early January. I can’t wait.

George Phillips

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4 Responses to “It’s Not Too Early To Plan Your Month Of May”

  1. My Indianapolis weekend was one of the first things on my mind this morning. Maybe it was because Nashville is pretty warm right now, but I would be thinking about The 500 during a snow fall. I, too, have seats in Section A and I am looking forward to the Saturday evening pizza at Jackamos on the East End. This is also a rewarding weekend spent with my son, Jack and having grown up in the Circle City it is particularly special to share that with him.

  2. I will be watching the 500 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield again (did you hear they have a HUGE TV?). Have to be in the Lake Norman area again that weekend. Someday I will make it to Indy, promise!

  3. Ryan Johnson Says:

    Every year my group and myself head up to the track bright and early and park in a relatively discreet parking area ( I will share the directions to get there because I don’t care if everyone else finds out about it because if they’re half as excited to find it as I was then I’m happy). If you’re arriving from the south and taking I-465 then get off on the 10th St exit and make a right at the light. Continue 1/2 – 1 mile and after you have passed Wendy’s, Lowe’s etc you’ll see a small church on your left at the corner of an intersection…. they only charge $10 a car and you will save much time waiting in the traffic and will be able to make the 3/4 – 1 mile walk right to the track! This year I only ordered one ticket for myself (SouthWest Vista, Section 5, Row MM) as most of the group never knows if they’re going to go or not and usually could care less if they’re watching the race from the grandstands or the infield… I’m a diehard so I do care and that seat was an exceptional deal this late in the game. I’m pumped to be sitting that high and that far into T1 as normally I’m only at about Row X and Section 8-11…. The rest of the group appears to be content with the infield and I’m sure to be making many friends in my new location as seats that high are normally filled with season ticket holders that date back a long time. Only 134 days, 16 hours, 1 minute and 15 seconds until we go green, green, green!!

  4. Forgot to comment on this last week. Though I’d been looking at hotel rooms for Indy for weeks, it took the inspiration of seeing your Tweet saying that you’d booked your room to kick me into gear to pull the trigger. Room is booked, earliest I’ve ever done it, and I am ready to go. Bring on May.

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