I was headed to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix and because of some recent changes I wasn’t working before I left for Canada. Having already packed I decided on an adventure to Hood River to drink beer and eat some food. I did some research and decided on pFriem Family Brewers right along the river as a good place for lunch. The menu looked really creative and I was excited to try all the different beers.
The brewery is housed in a new industrial area along the Columbia River. While this might be industry it is all modern and meant to be a hip place to locate a business. There are several places like pFriem in the same complex for instance. Large open ceilings with plenty of room for the brewing equipment in the back. Not a stellar looking brewing operation but you still get to see the entire process from start to finish.
Food was fantastic hear. The brussel sprout appetizer was pretty damn tasty. The sausage was also really good. So much flavor in all the food I had. Many other things on the menu looked fantastic and worth a trip back just to try more of the food. As for the beer I only had two and they where ok. Got some lighter beer which they had a lot to choose from. Also a lot of various IPA’s on tap. Mix of Belgium styles along with some barrel aged stuff. You can certainly find something to explore here.
I would certainly come back here again. Mostly for the food but I would also take the opportunity to try some of the heaver beers and see how they rate. The place has a really good atmosphere. On nice days there is a rather large outdoor covered patio section which is nice.
I have been watching Formula 1 for I don’t even know how many years. Over those years I have attended the United States Grand Prix four times. Two back at Indianapolis (2006 and 2007) and then two in Austin (inaugural event in 2012 and 2016). The contract was not renewed for Indy so after 2007 and until Austin in 2012 there was no United States Grand Prix. Being a huge fan seeing a Formula 1 race in a foreign country has been on my bucket list for a while. It is a global phenomenon that I just have to see one in a different country. What do they always say: location, location, location.
It didn’t take much convincing for Jeremy to commit and so we decided Canada would be a good first race outside the US. While not far, it is technical another country. Being relatively close to the US would help keep costs down which was a bonus. Any fan will also know that the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a pretty spectacular track. The super long front straight, the ultra tight turn 10 and the wall of champions just to name a few highlights. Not to mention some pretty incredible races and if you throw in a little rain, watch out. Things can get crazy. Visiting Montreal has also been on my list for a while so double win on that.
For months I had been waiting for this trip to come. It was going to be a seven day, six night trip to Montreal. We decided that if we are going this far lets bookend the race with some free time in Montreal and really get to know the city. We flew out on Wednesday and would fly back the following Wednesday. Race events happened Friday through Sunday so that meant two full days doing whatever we wanted.
Before the fun could start we had to get there. My flight from Portland was routed through Newark and then onto Montreal. Some freak weather in Newark early in the evening delayed my flight from Portland and cancelled the flight to Montreal. Thankfully I didn’t leave my house before all this went down so a quick call to United and I was routed through Calgary via Air Canada. I was very thankful everything worked out. The one downside was I arrived just after midnight.
It was such a long day of travel getting to Montreal but I was so happy to get there. Jeremy beat my by a good margin and was already checked into the hotel. That night we caught up for several hours before we went to bed. This was going to be a fun trip and it had only just started.
The next morning was a free day and we both agreed, lets just wake up and figure it out tomorrow. That evening I just didn’t have the brain power to come up with a plan. All I could think about when I got there was sleep.
After some fuel for the body we headed out to experience the city. We started by just walking around. It was a work day and mid-afternoon so the streets where packed with workers and tourists alike. A very metropolitan and diverse city which was really great to see. When I see a lot of diversity like Montreal has it makes me feel good. We need more diversity, not less. Our first stop was to the cannabis store. Canada recently legalized cannabis so I was interested in seeing what they had.
Next objective was to come up with a plan for the rest of the day. We decided on the Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal and the opportunity for a little culture. There is something about art museums I love. The fine art museum is really a bunch of smaller buildings with different themes that are all interconnected. During out visit they had several special events going on. You could tell that because Formula 1 was in town lots of money had followed and all over town everyone was trying to grab a bit of that freely spending cash.
The most memorable exhibit was the one on coutur fashion. Anyone that knows me knows I have no sense of fashion. I can appreciate it, I just choose to spend my money on different things. This exhibit has several famous works of clothing. Often I would recognize the outfit and then Jeremy and I would try to remember what it was from. A pretty decent exhibit and something I would not have expected to see in an art museum. But then again this is one reason I love art museums. Anything and everything is and can be art.
We spent the rest of the afternoon simply exploring the city and seeing as much of it as we could. There was just something about mingling among all the people that was just great. I really felt welcomed by the city. Walking around is something I do a lot of in Portland and I was happy it easily transferred to Montreal. That night we walked around till we found La Maison Bulgogi for dinner. Really good stuff and it was cheap as crap. We went with the full experience and cooked our own meat.
Finally the day has arrived. It is Friday and that means the start of practice. We got an early start to make sure we didn’t miss anything and took the metro right to the doorstep of the track. Everything was super organized and the flow of people was very well controlled that morning and in fact all weekend. I was very impressed with the use of soft power to control and direct the crowds. You could tell this was not their first large event and ran like a well oiled machine.
Anyways once we got to the track we did our typical day one stuff, we walked the track. We quickly found there was no way to walk completely around the track. Being on an island, and a public park as well, there just isn’t enough space. The track guides visitors pretty well and limits what you can see. We couldn’t walk around the entire track but we managed to explore every place we could till someone told us to stop. We also found that the general viewing areas are pretty limited. Mostly because of the limited space but also because of all the trees. So many trees.
We got a good look at the track that first day. We walked around the lake and relaxed for a while. We both agreed that a trip to the park in summer would be a good trip. The casino in the middle of the park is pretty interesting. Lots of fan zones and places for people to congregate. Along the back straight they still have in place the rowing venue. We even managed to find a nice shady spot near our grand stand to hang out.
All day we walked around to get different vantage points of the track from the support races and F1 practice. The track is know for all the trees and I will admit that it makes seeing the cars with a general admission ticket pretty difficult. We found a good spot around turn three. Also along the back straight before turn 10 is a nice grassy knoll with some shade. Typical race track vantage points but again, not a lot of GA spots to watch the action.
Time at the track that first day was pretty limited but it was nice to get a feel for the layout and where everything was for the weekend. We headed back to town and started looking for food. We decided on tacos and Burrito Borracho not far from our hotel hit the spot. Surprisingly we didn’t have a problem getting a table even thought it was in the fan zone. The taco’s where pretty amazing. We got an order and split it. As soon as the first plate was delivered I ordered second set of tacos and glad I did because it was all so good.
All day I had wanted a cigar so I treated us to some at La Casa del Habano. I got an cappuccino to go along with mine and it was a damn tasty combo. We had the NBA finals in the background that night. Raptors at Golden State and the Raptors won 105 to 92. They ended up taking the championship. While the cigars might be over priced it was totally worth it to just hanging out smoking cigars with Jeremy. We even met a really cool dude named Ramie who was a local. He gave us some tips on a good Montreal pastrami place and a poutine place.
Saturday and things started to heat up. It was go fast day. The hotel was full of race fans that morning at breakfast. Getting to the track was a little busier with more people crowding the track to see the cars. But just like Friday the weather was a perfect late spring day in Montreal. A fine day to push cars to the limit and go the fastest.
Because we couldn’t really walk around the track and there are limited viewing areas we caught FP3 from the side lines but went to our seats for qualifying. Waiting for qualifying we went to the Casino Montréal so I could give away my money. That turned into a cluster fuck but we didn’t really know it at the time. We apparently came in from the back exit. The guy at the gate didn’t speak English and of course we don’t speak French. He kept trying to tell us something but eventually gave up and let us through with a stamp on our inside wrist. Come to find out that was crucial to us getting back into the track. I also went back with more then then I walked in with. Oh happy day.
Typical casino like you find all over the world. Bag check and security to get in. A few race cars before the security to help lure people in. Nothing but slots on the first floor. We went to the second and immediately turned around because it was all table games. At the end of our time at the casino I found a Flintstones double seater slot machine and out in CA$20. Because qualifying was getting close and I had money left I started making big bets. Well one paid out so instead of loosing twenty I walked away with 60. I poured that back into the local economy like any good tourist.
Our seats from the casino were pretty far and we still hadn’t had lunch. We eventually stopped for some hot dogs and got shit service from the teenagers working the stand. We actually missed the start of quals because they just didn’t give a shit. I was pretty hot after our mishap, causing us to miss the green flag. I just wanted to get to our seats and sit down.
When we finally got to our stand I didn’t have much hope for good seats. While I did buy them as early as I could I ran into delays purchasing the ticket. When we got to the top of the stairs I looked down at the steps as they had the letters of each row. We where X. What I saw in front of me was MM and below me was GG so that meant we had to go up. And boy did we go up. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve does it backwards meaning single letters are higher so Z is the top row. We arrived late because of the food snafu so we just sat in the middle of the stairs. I was not about to fight crowds and all I wanted to do was sit down and eat my hotdog.
Getting back to downtown was rather easy considering the size of the crowd that night. Based on Ramie’s suggested we headed north from our hotel to Schwartz’s Deli and the home made pastrami. We didn’t know it but all of Boul Saint-Laurent was closed for a street festival. Just a mass of people out in the street perusing the vendors on what turned out to be a gorgeous Saturday night. When we finally got to Schwartz’s the line was well out the door. It wasn’t good enough for us to stand in line so we went to Restaurant Jano. A Portuguese restaurant specializing in grilled meat. Not the best I have had but certainly a good inexpensive meal that hit the spot for comfort food.
Finally race day was here and we were super excited. We made a super earlier start getting to the track that morning. At breakfast the place was packed with fans doing the same thing. Sunday was certainly the largest all week but the flow as pretty good. The use of soft power by the police really helped with crowd control I must say. We got to our seats with plenty of time to catch the start and not missing anything which made me happy. We had packed a bunch of food along with water so we also didn’t need a reason to leave our seats during the race.
Vettel started poll and lead the entire race. About two thirds of the way through the race he made an off track mistake. When he corrected to get back on track he impeded Hamilton as he was about to pass. The stewards declared this an unsafe return and penalized Vettel 5 seconds. Hamilton all day was right behind Vettel but never with enough power or breaking to pass him. This penalty however gave Hamilton the win and you could see the frustration on Vettel’s face after the race.
All in all not a very exciting race but a beautiful day to be outside enjoying some world class driving. After the race we hung out down by the water under the shade in a place we spotted the first day. Nothing was going on after the race either so eventually we just left. Sunday took longer to get out but we did eventually make it back to the hotel. We had reservations to La Queue de Cheval Steakhouse & Raw Bar that night and I didn’t want to be late.
Last time in Austin we had a great steak dinner and I wanted to do that again in Montreal. Unfortunately this place was not the place I hoped it would be. The waiter was rather boring and didn’t have a personality. You could tell that he had given the same speech over and over again and had lost the emotion behind it. It was more routine then anything else and was rather annoying. The steak was also not as good as I had hoped for the price. It was poorly season and even for a rib eye it was to fatty. The sides where good but way to small which was disappointing. If I knew that I would have gotten more. Just not what I was hoping for the price I paid for that meal. Live and learn and when we go back to Montreal we will be certain to pick another place for steak.
The saving grace to the day was another cigar at La Casa del Habano. This was a given considering the steak meal we had and the perfect night cap to the end of race day. Vettel lead all day but managed to come in second, the steak was pretty terrible but at least we had fine cigars. I got another cappuccino to savoir with my cigar and good company. Eventually three gentlemen from New Jersey sit who are also here for the race. One in particular was really knowledgeable about F1 and he was a joy to talk to.
Monday thankfully was not a travel day for us. We didn’t have to rush out of town like many thousands of others. We got another full day in the city to explore and check things out. This also included sleeping to whenever the hell we wanted which was nice.
We explored and visited new neighborhoods and saw a totally different side of the city. Our first stop of the day was The Biosphere. This is an environmental museum which was pretty interesting. Skip the video, we gave up after about 15 minutes of just plan weird stuff. Lots of small exhibits but nothing that will blow your doors off. The observation deck is one of the coolest things about this place besides just being inside this giant sphere.
I wanted to hit a brewery and get some food so to start our culinary adventure we headed to Brasserie Dieu du Ciel again north of us. The brewery was a few blocks from the metro station so we got to see what this neighborhood was like. Rather nice place to walk through with not only a lot of homes but small shop as well. More on that later.
The food was rather good her and the beer was pretty adventurous I must say. Nothing that really blew my doors off but some good weird ales which was a nice change of pace. It was great to see how majorly different the styles are in Montreal compared to here in Portland or even to northern Virginia. The food was pretty simple but flavorful and a nice touch for a brewery. The place inside is a lot of exposed wood and tables. Small brewery operation is in the corner. They actually have a basement which had additional brewing operations which is interesting.
While in the neighborhood I did a search for stationary and found two places. The first one isn’t worth mentioning, such a disappointment. The second was Au Papier Japonais which was a way better store. They had all sorts of things imported from Japan or inspired by Japan in their shop. Some stationary but what I fell in love with was the paper. I found this super thin sheets of paper with Japanese maple leaves pressed into it. I have been looking for something like this for a while so I was excited to stumble across this place. The cleric carefully wrapped it since I had to carry it with me on the plane.
From here we headed down to the water front. We decided to just hang out in a park along the water. From the metro stop the piers are not that far. We ended up on a grassy knoll overlooking the channel. It was pretty peaceful with a handful of others just relaxing in the park like we were. I took this opportunity to get a little writing done and simply enjoy the world around me.
Not making it to Schwartz’s Deli on Saturday we decided to try again on Monday and hope for better luck. This time Boul Saint-Laurent was still closed but no line out the door. The sandwich was pretty good I must say. The pastrami was all done up in Montreal seasoning which was a little different but in a good way. It didn’t work on the steak but the pastrami was a different story. Cash only at this place but they do accept American money which is convenient.
After that satisfying meal we headed back to the metro station with a long stop at Square Saint-Louie. This is a very nice tree lined park with a big fountain in the middle. Tons of benches so we took the opportunity to take a load off and have a smoke before getting back to the hotel. It was another relaxing evening in Montreal that night.
And this too must end. It was great visiting Montreal. They certainly know how to put on a large event with efficiency. The race could have been better but it was a great time at the track. All the support races where great. The food was simply amazing all week and the cultural events were hard to beat. It is a very walk able city and you throw in the great metro system you can get anywhere quickly. The people are nice with a diverse mix of cultures. A really great city and I look forward to coming back.
It has been five years since I last was in Austin for the return of Formula 1 to the US in 2012. Let me tell you it’s good to be back. This time around Jeremy and I planned it out much better then the first trip and we also had a bigger budget. This time I flew into Austin and we stayed at the Marriott. No 24 hour driving marathon and staying with AirBnB this time.
My flight was a little delayed which sucked but since I had no checked baggage I walked off the plane and right into Jeremy’s car to drive directly to the track. We missed FP1 but caught the rest of the day’s track activities without issue. I must say I was very impressed with the track upgrades since we first attended the inaugural Grand Prix. That first year was all about getting the track ready for racing, since then they have been improving the fan experience. Traffic in and out was better, a lot more paved lots closer to the track, new stands, new walkways and the amphitheater was completed this time around.
Just like the first time around, Friday and Saturday we walked the track for different viewing angles for the various race events. Most of the time we would scope out an area, fire up a couple cigars and just enjoy the cars from whatever stand or hillside we thought was good.
Quals ended up kinda like we expected with Mercedes one and two. Hamilton took pole with Rosberg second and Ricciardo third. This was how they finished the race as well. While I didn’t want either Merc to win, it was nice seeing Hamilton finish ahead of Rosberg, narrowing the gap between them and statistically keeping Hamilton in the hunt for a fourth world championship. Another surprising drive was from Honda. Button I think qualified 19 and Alanso only a little better at 17 or 16. By the end of the race both were able to score points with Alanso 7th and Button 9th. They have struggled all year so having both drivers not only finishing but score points was pretty amazing. Our “official” seats were at turn 15 so we were able to catch probably 85-90% of all the passing, right there in front of us. Just amazing seats.
Our activities were not limited to just the track this time around. I spent and extra day in Austin to allow us more time for activities and not cram it all into a short amount of time. The race activities usually finish in the late afternoon so our nights were totally open to new adventures. Friday we had a great steak dinner at Bob’s Steak & Chop House right in downtown. We choose this place because of the rooftop bar that allows smoking. Unfortunately once we finished dinner the roof bar was smashed with people so no smoking for us. We instead hit Habana House Cigars across the river, really nice shop on the south of town to relax and decompress after our first day at the track.
Saturday Taylor Swift was the post race entertainment but we decided to skip it. All day we kept seeing Swifties walking around. I think half were there to enjoy the race but many were clearly there just for Taylor. We saw people lining up at the entrance to the field as soon as we arrived to the track. This was around 9:30 in the morning and the show probably didn’t start till 7 or later. That’s some dedication. Again, not a fan but I was impressed with the crowd she drew. It was estimated at 80+ thousand people, incredible.
Instead of seeing Taylor we went to the Austin Beer Garden Brewery. You know me, always gotta hit a brewery when I travel. I was particularly excited to go here as it won Best Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year at this years Great American Beer Festival in Denver. This place really is modeled after a German beer hall with bench seating all over the place. The outside beer garden was truly amazing as well. When we arrived it was smashed with people which is always a good sign. I ended up trying three of their beers and bought a bottle for the following night. Just a great atmosphere and beer. Probably 7 regular taps and only one seasonal available but all pretty solid.
After the beer garden we headed downtown. We hit Stubb’s BBQ which was great before heading to FanFest. The brisket here was amazing but the service was horrible. Despite that I would still go back again. If you like bar hoping then FanFest is your place. For Jeremy and I it was rather boring. Maybe because it was late, I don’t know, they just didn’t have much we were interested in so we walked the few blocks roped off for FanFest and then went back to the hotel to enjoy a cigar night cap.
Race day and what a day it turned out to be. The crowds all weekend I thought were pretty impressive but on race day you can throw all that out the window. The track was a lively place as fans poured in to see the fight between Hamilton and Rosberg. It was just a magical day watching the race and we had some really good seats. After the race we stayed to watch User and The Roots. It was going to be a made house getting out and we had no place to go on Monday so we stuck around for the concert. Usher I didn’t care much for but The Roots threw down let me tell you. They opened the set with about 4 songs and ended the set as well. What a great job considering The Weekend was originally schedule and backed out with less then two weeks before race day.
Monday was nothing but a lounge day. I wanted to spend at least one extra day in the city to really get a feeling for it. We ended up heading to Canyon Lake for a hike which was nice. We tried to hike Emerald Point but the park was closed for a public hunt. Not wanting to get shot we headed to Canyon Lake instead. After he hike we continued to Jeremy’s house for dinner with his mother. I hadn’t seen her in a long time so it was nice to catch up with her. We went to dinner that night and afterwards we sat in the pouch talking. Jeremy and I smoked a couple Cuban Hoyo de Monterrey Especial Epicures which were great. I cracked open the saison I got from ABGB which Janet helped me finish and we just talked. It is so peaceful out that far in the country. I was hoping to catch the stars but it was pretty overcast that night. They tell me you can see so many stars out there when it is a clear night.
With the trip almost over Tuesday was really just a day to at catch up. We stopped at Wright Bros. Brew and Brew for some coffee and a bottle of beer. We planned on going to Heroes & Legacies on the north part of town and this being Texas, its BYOB. Jeremy caught up with his account and I was able to get a little writing done. Great place to sit, relax and smoke. The lounge is outta sight here. There is a membership fee but it’s worth the price if you want to really relax and enjoy a cigar. It was after three before we left there for the airport. Since I was not checking baggage and had an e-ticket, I breezed right through security to my gate.
Vacations never seem to be long enough. This was another great Formula 1 trip and I look forward to coming back in 2017. Austin really knows how to throw down and make a great race experience for the fans. There are still a few breweries I want to hit in the area and I can always spend time at the numerous cigar lounges around town. I think next year we might try to do a few more cultural things in addition to our normal activities.
For five years Formula 1 has been absent from the United States. When I started to get into F1, they had a yearly race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My first race was in 2006 and I went again in 2007. I will never forget my first experience, seeing the cars race down the front straight of Indy at 200mph, the noise, the smell, how it made my body shack. My second and the final race in America, I went with my dad and that was an incredible experience we shared together. So when it was confirmed that F1 would come back to the States, I jumped at the chance to go.
I wrangled Jeremy to come along and we planned a road trip to the brand new, purpose built Circuit of the Americas in Austin. We were trying to do this on the cheap so we decided to drive down and and rent an apartment using Air BnB. He spent the night at my house on Wednesday and at 6:15am on Thursday, we were on the road towards Austin. We knew what time we needed to be in Austin, first practice started at 9am. Google said it would take 26 hours of straight driving, it would be close but we where on a mission and I was determined to let nothing stop us from getting there on time.
Let me tell you, 26 hours in a car and not much happens. We had tons of music to listen to, lots of Starbucks and the changing countryside to keep us company. We got to Memphis by dinner time and decided to eat at Corky’s BBQ. It is a well known BBQ place in the city and was packed when we arrived, on a late Thursday night of all times. We lucked out and got a spot at the bar and enjoyed some great Memphis style BBQ. A quick bit to eat and off again on the road.
Early on Friday morning we both were exhausted and found a Wal-Mart parking lot in Waco to rest for an hour. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable it was, that quick nap was a much needed break. As dawn broke on Friday we continued our trip to Austin. With the sun coming up we made good time down I85 and arrived at the Q parking lot by 7:30am. We had been up for 26 hours and driven 1500 miles, but we where excited to finally be in Austin. A quick breakfast and off to the shuttle bus.
We had assigned seats at turn 1 but we both wanted to check walk around the brand new track. All day we walked with purpose up to different grand stands to check out practice. We started by going to the grandstand along the start/finish line. This was the perfect spot for Jeremy to see the cars for the first time. Along the straight you get the full speed of the cars and the nose as it reverberates off the grandstand and the paddock. You can fell their power as they rush pass you at 200mph, engines bouncing off the rev limiter at 18k rpm’s as they climb 133′ to the hairpin turn 1.
This track is pretty amazing when you look at it. The coolest feature, the climb to turn 1. 133′ doesn’t sound like much but when you see it in person, its an impressive climb the cars make going full throttle. Later in sector 1 you have the fast chicane which lead to the blind turn 10. On Friday we got close to this corner and it is crazy to see the cars come out of no where over the crest of the hill as they go to the hairpin turn 11 and the long back straight. Then comes the slow stadium section where cars will turn around on themselves giving everyone a good look before hitting the three apex turn 16, 17, 18. Finally turn 19 and 20 before crossing the start finish line.
All day on Friday we walked around the track sitting in different grandstands. Of course we started on the straight away, then headed to turn the 15 to check out the stadium section. While you can see a lot of action it is mostly slow turns which is not very exciting. The best corner will be turn 12 after the back straight where you can get some passing action. During the lul in driving, we got some lunch and lounged on the hill around turn 18. I got a breakfast waffle from The Belgian Waffle Company and it was delicious. We took the opportunity to smoke a cigar and I even took a nap before the vintage cars took the track for practice.
For the inaugural race they managed to get 30 or so vintage F1 cars from the late 60’s to the early 80’s. When I was in Indianapolis, I saw many of these cars at the museum but there is nothing like seeing them out on the race track. This was perhaps the coolest thing the entire weekend for me. We saw vintage Ferrari’s, the Morgan six wheeler, John Player Specials, a Ragno that was quick as shit and many other famous cars. Hats off to the drivers for putting on a great show all weekend and to the owners for allowing these historical cars to be race like they where meant to be.
From here we cut across the track and headed towards turn 11. First stop was along the fence at turn 5 and the fast sweeping chicane. Then to turn 7 which was pretty uneventful. Turn 10 was really cool as it is a blind left corner. The drivers come up a slight hill to the blind left hander and onto turn 11. It was crazy seeing the cars appear out of no where at the top of the hill and down towards 11. We eventually made it to turn 11 and finished out the second practice from here. This spot was great as you could see the blind turn 10 and the slow turn 11 right in front of you before they dashed down the 1km back straight.
When practice was finally over we made it back to the car and headed into the city. It was almost 4 and we still hadn’t been to our rental apartment or even seen the city. As tired as we were it didn’t stop us from eating a late lunch at Habanero Mexican Cafe before unloading at the apartment. By now it was about 36 hours since we left home and we both needed a shower. We wanted to go to Fanfest in downtown but decided to just hang out and smoke a cigar at the apartment. Saturday was going to be another early morning with the third practice starting at 9am sharp.
Surprisingly, the track on Friday was packed with spectators and Saturday was more so. Both prior races I went to there were of course people, but not nearly as many as in Austin. You could tell the fans where here to support Formula 1’s return to the United States and I think we made a good showing after a 5 year absence. For the first time we sat in our actual seats to catch the final practice and the qualification. Turn 1 was certainly a great spot to watch the race. We could see the cars come out of the pit lane and with turn 1 being so sharp, the cars really had to slowdown to make the turn successfully. During the Ferrari Challenge race that day one of the cars skidded for 100 yards before hitting the barricade. He just popped it into reverse and rejoined the race. We saw lots of close call at turn one as well with racers doing their best to overtake but not hit each other.
By late afternoon the Ferrari and vintage F1 races where done for the day and we headed to The Salt Lick for dinner. I was recommended this place by Tracy for some good BBQ in Texas. We already had Memphis style and I was looking forward to some Texas BBQ next. This place is pretty famous for their huge pit where they cook all their meat. First off this place is in the middle of no where, literally. It took almost an hour to get there from the track and when we arrived the place was smashed. There must have been over 100 cars in the parking lot and policy where directing traffic. The hostess said 40 minutes to get a seat, we had come this far we where going to wait. The place is a large banquet hall when you walk in, large rooms have been built onto the original structure and it is impressive how many people were in there with just as many waiting to get in.
I got the Thurman’s Choice sampler with sides and for the most part I was not impressed. The ribs and sausage where ok but I must admit that the beef brisket is possible the best I have ever tasted. I got the wet version which has more fat on it and it was amazing. The long slow cooking over the wood fire really makes it tender, juicy and with the perfect amount of smoke flavor. It was so good in fact I brought some back for Nancy to try along with two bottles of wine from their vineyard. I even got some peach cobbler with ice cream for dessert. We where on vacation so I figured what the hell, unfortunately this too was disappointing. The unique atmosphere and the brisket would certainly make me come back despite most of the food being mediocre at best.
Fat dumb and happy we headed back to the apartment for a cigar and bed. It was nice sitting outside as the neighbors where all college kids and more than willing to chat with a couple of strange random dudes smoking cigars. I unfortunately had homework to finish and didn’t get to sleep that night till 2am, 6am was going to come early on race day let me tell you.
Race on Sunday
All weekend the track was pretty packed yet the shuttles worked really well. The bathroom lines where mostly short but food and drink was always a problem. Race day we knew things would be busier so we left by 7am to get there long before the crowds showed up. There was a Ferrari and vintage support race before the 1pm F1 start so we had plenty of things to keep us occupied before the light go out.
For the Ferrari race we stood around turn one and smoked a morning cigar with coffee. Saturday night I stayed up till 2am working on some homework so coffee and nicotine was just what the doctor ordered. The race was pretty ho hum, it is rich people driving really expensive cars. We were rooting for “Bob,” that was the nick name we gave to the slowest guy on the track. All weekend he was dead last and in both races was lapped by several people, pretty amazing when you consider the race was only 10 laps long!
After our morning smoke we settle into our seats for the forthcoming races. Next up was the Porsche GT3 race. These guys were much more aggressive around the track with lots of wheel to wheel action, including a few scrapes. For the most part it was pretty unexciting.
As 11 o’clock rolled around the pageantry that is Formula 1 started. The pit lane opened for everyone with Paddock tickets to walk around. Then the pace car and medical car take a few laps to make sure the track is ready to go for the race start. It sounds stupid, but I love the way that V8 Mercedes SLS AMG sounds. As it roars down the track it has this awesome low rumble, even the medical car sounds good. Next was the drivers parade lap which for Austin featured all the drivers on classic American cars. I have seen at many other tracks they will drive around on a flatbed, the classic cars were a great touch.
When the pit lane finally opened things started to get serious. The teams start releasing their cars onto the track to form up. Excitement was building in the crowd of 117,000 race fans. All the grandstands I could see were full and the general admission areas where absolutely smashed with people. Jeremy had to make a pit stop and I was nervous he wouldn’t make it back in time for the race start. We had a gentleman’s bet on the first corner. Yes the drivers had all weekend to learn the track, none of them had been around in race conditions. Turn 1 would be tricky but I was confident that everyone get through unscathed, Jeremy was not so certain. My only fear was Grosjean barreling down the track and playing bumper cars with everyone. Alonso started 7th and Grosjean 8th so I was ultimately worried he would take Alonso out. To stay in the contention for the drivers championship, Alonso needed to finish as far ahead of Vettel as possible. With Grosjean’s record of wrecking into people and Alonso not getting past the first corner, I was really concerned.
Fortunately Jeremy made it back with only a minute to spare before the start of the race, running into Governor Rick Perry was no excuse to miss the exciting start of the race. When the lights went out it was race time and everyone raced up the hill towards the first corner. There was some great maneuvering by Alonso up to turn 1 to gain three spots and edge closer to Vettel.
As the laps melted away the race progressed nicely with few incidents. Webber had alternator trouble which let Alonso get another position and finish the race in third. While Vettel had a better qualifier, Hamilton was challenging after a few laps. Vettel was never able to gain a substantial lead like in previous races. Hamilton was able to stay with him and was often fighting for position. Finally about two thirds the way through the race Hamilton made a pass that stuck on the back straight to take first place. When he drove pass our grandstand everyone jumped up and cheered. I couldn’t tell if everyone was happy to see Hamilton leading the race or that Vettel was bumped to second. I was happy to see Vettel loose points, allowing Alonso stay in the hunt for the drivers championship.
With no other changes in position, this is how the race ended: Hamilton, Vettel, and Alonso. Both Jeremy and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and can’t wait to come back next year. We checked out seats higher in turn one and realized the price for these tickets was certainly justified. It was just a much better view of the track. You could see further and didn’t have the annoying fence blocking any of our view. I think next year these are the seats we will try and get.
For the award ceremony they opened the gates and allowed people to stream onto the track which was pretty cool. We watched the ceremony from our seats and I was horrified to see the drivers emerge wearing cowboy hats! Only in fucking Texas would they do something as stupid as that, they looked ridiculous up there in those hats. To this day I still can’t believe it.
We waited a good hour before trying to leave and were shocked at the line to get back to parking lot Q. Eventually we decided to hoof it to our car. This started the long trip back home that night. We drove most of the night and only stopped for about 2 hours just outside Arkansas when nether one of us could stay awake any more. We ran into a little trouble in Round Rock which caused the trip to take 30 hours, getting to my house at midnight on Monday. We made only one extended stop and that was for hotdogs at Cori’s DogHouse which had some amazing hotdogs. If you are every passing through Nashville, its worth the stop.
Here in America the entire country waits for the start of the National Football League in September. It is by far the largest sporting event here and I must confess, I can’t wait for the season to start either. That is assuming that the owners and players get their crap together and come together on a collective agreement. Right now the owners have locked out the players and the start of the regular season is in questions. As always the issues comes down to money and who gets how much of the it, ugh. The last player strike occurred in 1982 and the owners used scabs for the season. But never fear, the new season of Formula 1 starts on March 13! Oh wait there are protests in Bahrain so the race, and the opening of the season, got pushed back two weeks. Continue reading Formula 1 2011 season starts→