YouTube - the trip
Picasa - (slide by slide)
|Gulf Coast Speedway|
RANDY LEWIS RACING - TRACKCHASER REPORT
“THIS SEASON IS WINDING DOWN” TRACKCHASING TOUR
This was my 25th trackchasing double of the year …………..details in “The Plan”.
Another bucket list item has been checked off..................more in “Trackchasing Tourist Attraction”.
Stadium off-road racing is fun…………..details in “Race Review”.
GREETINGS FROM FLORESVILLE, TEXAS AND THEN ALVIN, TEXAS
VIDEOS! PICTURES! SEE WHAT I SAW TODAY!
It’s simple. There are three different ways for you to see what I saw today at the races. You can watch a movie (always less than ten minutes). Secondly, you can see my still photos via YouTube.com. Finally, you can see my still photos by using Picasa. With Picasa you can view the pictures at your own pace or watch them in a slide show produced by Picasa. Pick the method you like best from below.
Click on the link below to see the short movie I made from today’s track visit. You’ll probably enjoy it best when you can see it on the FULL SCREEN of your computer with the sound volume turned up. The movie will focus both on the racing and the adventure.
STILL PHOTOS ON YOUTUBE.
To see my still pictures via YouTube right now, click on this link:
STILL PHOTOS ON PICASA
To see my pictures at your own pace on Picasa (slide by slide) right now click on this link:
THE PLAN, THE TRIP, THE PEOPLE…AND A WHOLE LOT MORE
25 trackchasing doubles and counting.
I like to see multiple tracks in one day. When I do it’s called a “trackchasing double”. There are several kinds of “doubles”. Today I saw my favorite type of trackchasing double. It’s the “day/night” double. Just as the name says, with this type of double I see one track in the day (afternoon) and one at night (evening).
I am surprised to look back on this year and note that I have seen 25 trackchasing doubles. Over the years, I’ve tried to see trackchasing doubles as often as I could. Considering I’ve seen more than 1,700 tracks, being able to catch 25 doubles in a single year at this stage in my career is noteworthy.
This weekend it’s the “Texas Triangle”.
I woke up this morning in Waco, Texas. I went to bed in Houston, Texas on Saturday night. Then, somewhat unexpectedly I went to sleep in the comfort of my National Rental Car Racing Volvo near the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport on Sunday night. More about that later.
This trip would cover a “Texas Triangle”. Last night’s race was near Dallas. This afternoon’s race would be just outside of San Antonio. Finally, this evening’s race was in a suburb of Houston. Each “leg” of the triangle was a 4-5 hour drive.
LBJ….I’ll catch you next time.
On the way from Waco down toward San Antonio, I passed through the capital of Texas, Austin. I almost had a “Trackchasing Tourist Attraction” in Austin. I noticed a sign telling about the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library. I’ve been to several presidential libraries. I had exactly one hour to add another to my list.
Alas, it was not to be. I soon learned that the University of Texas Longhorns play football in Austin. Of all the things! They were having a game today against the #6 Oklahoma State Aggies. As luck (bad luck today) would have it the stadium is only a block or two from the LBJ Library. This created all kinds of traffic problems. There would be no easy way to get to this presidential library today.
You can always get a ticket.
However, I did see several young men selling (scalping/promotional wholesaling?) tickets to the game. It crossed my mind to stop, get a ticket to the game and blow off the TORC afternoon race in Floresville, Texas. However, I came down here to trackchase. I drove on.
Some good looking ‘get ups’.
However, one image will remain in my mind for some time. The young UT co-eds have an unusual “game get-up”. Many of them wore burnt orange Texas t-shirts, cowboy hats, blue jean “short shorts” and cowboy boots. It’s a pretty good look if you’re a Longhorn fan.
Later that evening………
How about a #$%^& light!
This evening I was headed for the Gulf Coast Speedway in Alvin, Texas. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to find this place. The track’s website offered only a map with a “red star” signifying the location of the track. There were no driving directions or an address listed.
This put “Garth” my friendly GPS buddy at a decided disadvantage. Even my iPhone’s “Maps app” couldn’t find the track by name. From the website map I had an idea it was located off Texas state route 35 a bit south of Alvin.
By the time I reached the general area of the track it was 8 p.m. It was also dark. I was cruising down the highway on a very dark night. Luckily, I knew “roughly” where the track was supposed to be.
As I approached I could see what appeared to be the track lights off the highway a half-mile or so. Without those lights it would have been very easy to miss the one lane gravel entrance road with ABSOLUTELY NO LIGHTS signifying there was a road or this was the way to get to the track.
Fortunately, there was no traffic in sight. This allowed me to back up on the two-lane highway in the dark about 50 yards. That was the point where I had noticed an unlit track sign. Recommendation: Put a light on your $#%^ sign.
A 99.5% accuracy rate in near perfect but not perfect.
I had planned to be back in San Clemente sometime on Sunday night. However, that would not come to pass. I missed an afternoon flight by one seat. Then I missed the evening flight by about five seats. For the fifth time out of 900 flights, I had missed my “same day” destination. Bummer. However, I’ve been so lucky for so long I have no complaints.
I would be getting home on Monday now. I just needed to decide on the best way that both minimized my incremental expenses and gave me the best odds not to be in Texas on Tuesday.
The best idea I could come up with was to rent a car in Houston on Sunday night, drive it to Dallas, sleep in the car and then take a 5:45 a.m. (3:45 a.m. San Clemente time) Monday morning flight back to LAX. Folks, you can imagine if that was the BEST idea what some of the other choices were!
Had I known in advance I would have a difficult time getting out of Houston, I could have simply gotten a three-day Dallas car rental. As it was, my sponsor, the National Rental Car Company helped me out with first a two-day one-way rental (Dallas-Houston) and then a one-day one-way rental (Houston-Dallas). Three days of one-way rental can be expensive……..unless you have a car rental sponsorship.
Everybody exists in his or her own little world.
I was surprised to see so many friendly and motivated people at the Lakewood Church (more on this below). It never ceases to amaze me that folks are into their own little worlds. Trackchasing is a “little world”. Folks showing such outward enthusiasm at the “world’s largest church” is it’s own little world in many ways as well.
TRACKCHASING TOURIST ATTRACTION
I very much enjoy the racing when I go on trackchasing trips. However, I am not the type of person who would feel the trip was complete if I simply left home, went to the race and came back home.
I do a good deal of traveling. I want to do my best to see the local area when I come for a visit. There are usually unusual attractions that one area is noted for more than any other locale. I want to see those places. I want to touch them and feel them. When I leave an area, I want to have memories of these special places that I callTrackchasing Tourist Attractions. I will remember those experiences long after the checkered flag has fallen on whatever race I have seen that day.
Lakewood Church – Houston, Texas
Another bucket list item is in the books.
Everyone has, or should have, “bucket list” items in their life. These are things that you’d really like to see, experience and/or do. I’ve already knocked off a lot of experiences on my bucket list. How many do I have to go? I have no idea. I’m adding things to that list all the time.
I knocked another one off today. I’m talking about a visit to the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Never heard of the Lakewood Church (Lakewood Church)? It’s hosts the largest church congregation of any church in the United States. They have seating for 17,000 people! On any given week they average more than 43,500 in attendance.
You’ve come a long way baby.
John Osteen and his wife Dody founded the original Lakewood Church back in 1959. From the beginning, Lakewood was non-denominational and racially inclusive. The original location was in a predominantly black neighborhood in northeast Houston.
Today, the pastor of the church is Reverend Joel Osteen, youngest son of John and Doty. You may have seen him on TV. Although I don’t follow him regularly, I’ve seen him preach several times on the telly. He also appears from time to time on Larry King type talk shows.
I’m no expert on religion.
Although I am a Christian I am not a regular churchgoer. I was raised as a Methodist. My main motivation at the time was going to church to meet the girls who went to church at the time. Everybody goes to church for their own reasons, right.
I recall the Methodist church teaching the “Protestant ethic” (Protestant ethic). What do I recall about the “Protestant ethic”? From what I got out of it, if you do the right thing, work hard and treat people like you would like to be treated you’ll be headed northward when it’s time to check out. That was fair enough to me.
You can do it!
Reverend Osteen seems to support that point of view. He speaks in very clear and direct language with a significant southern drawl. He is just about the most positive person I have ever heard speak. His message is definitely a “you can do it” speech. He then ties that “today is a good day” “you are the best” approach with scripture. Check him out on TV sometime and let me know what you think.
I did a little research and found that the first Sunday service of the day would be at 8:30 a.m. That was good for me. I could go to church and still be home in California by late afternoon or so I thought.
In 2005, the Lakewood Church paid $11.8 million of pre-paid rent to lease the Houston’s Compaq Center for 30 years. Then they put some $75 million into the building for renovations. Within the past twelve months the city of Houston’s city council voted to sell the building to the Lakewood Church for $7.5 million.
Going to church in an NBA arena.
The Lakewood Church is in what used to be the Compac Center. This was once the home of the NBA Houston Rockets! Can you imagine your local major sports arena being turned into a full-time church.
I had to park a block or two away in a commercial parking garage. From there I just followed the people. The website had told me the Joel Osteen would be preaching today. He travels some and is not always preaching at his church.
What’s the greeter really up too?
When I entered the arena…..er, I mean the church, greeters and ushers were smiling and telling me “hello”. In some ways it felt a little creepy like when the Wal-Mart greeter says hello. Later I would find out from a Wal-Mart employee that the greeter was not there primarily to wish you a good day. They were stationed at the door to make sure people didn’t successfully shoplift!
However, there wasn’t much to shoplift today. Maybe these people were just being sincere in their greeting at the church today. I rode the escalator up one level to the main arena entrance. I felt somewhat like I was going to see the Rockets play. However, there was no smell of popcorn.
I suspect the arena/church looks as good as the day it opened. There is lots of walking space around the perimeter of the arena. In the nooks and crannys that used to house concession stands are kiosks selling books by Reverend Osteen. From what I’ve read he doesn’t take any money at all from the church. His main source of income is his book sales.
When I entered the inside of the arena I was disappointed to see the entire upper level was blocked off. There would not be 17,000 people for the early morning service. However, about three-quarters of the lower level, including floor seating, was occupied. I’m guessing there were 4,000-5,000 people here today. That’s still a pretty good church crowd, right.
They were rockin’ the house down.
The first thirty minutes of the 90-minute service was devoted to music. The parishioners stand for this musical interlude. Folks, this isn’t your normal church music. They ROCK the house. It made me feel like I was at a concert.
The populace was made up about equally of blacks and whites. I noticed there were very few children. The crowd was “into it”. Many waved their hands in the air and rocked back and forth to the music. I was able to get a few photos and some video so you could see what was going on. I know that’s probably not the best behavior on my part when inside a church. However, I get a big kick out of sharing my experiences with you. If you choose to view the photos and video (Under the Gulf Coast Speedway Trackchaser Report) I think you will be entertained and educated.
It’s the Joel and Victoria show.
Reverend Osteen is fully supported by his wife, Victoria, who serves as an associate pastor at Lakewood. She preached for about five minutes. Her topic was on the value of “waiting”. Everyone wants what they want now. However, good things come to people who are willing to wait.
It wasn’t long after that Reverend Joel Osteen began to preach. He speaks totally extemporaneously. There is no teleprompter and he doesn’t carry notes. He adds humor to his speaking and comes off as very “down home”.
His role was never to be a preacher. His dad was the minister at the Lakewood Church for some forty years. For the first seventeen years of his working life Joel Osteen worked behind the scenes in the TV production of his father’s ministry. Then one day some twelve years ago or so, Joel Osteen made his very first sermon. In was during that week that his father suffered a fatal heart attack. From that point it was up to Joel to take over the church. He’s done pretty well since then.
Praise the Lord!
His topic today was praising the lord. The message was that if you praise Him you will be raised up. Of course, all of us believers hope that we are “raised up” when the time comes. It’s sort of, but not really, like being put in the Peoria Oldtimers Racing Club Hall of Fame.
I do not go to church on a regular or even semi-regular basis. O.K., I rarely if ever go to church unless Carol drags me on some major holiday. However, I do pray on a regular basis. And, no I don’t pray for those Dreaded East Coast Trackchasers (DECTs) to be rained out. I feel I can be a believer in God whether I go to church or not.
If only I lived in Houston.
I will tell you this. If I lived in Houston, I would go to church much more often. I’m going to make it a point to watch Reverend Osteen more during his weekly television broadcasts.
On the way out, I couldn’t resist buying an eight disc CD set of Reverend Osteen’s new book, “Make Every Day a Friday” (Make Every Day a Friday). I was able to listen to three of the eight discs on my drive up to Dallas on Sunday night.
I already have a lifestyle where I consider “Every night in Friday night and every day is Saturday”. I’m talking about my retirement. Nevertheless, I have picked up several pointers in listening to Reverend Osteen’s CD book. I suspect I’ll learn a lot more as I listen to the rest of it and then repeat it from time to time.
CYCLE RANCH – FLORESVILLE, TEXAS
Stadium off-road racing is fun.
This afternoon’s “Stadium Off-Road Racing” was being promoted by TORC (TORC), which stands for The Off-Road Championship. Today’s Texas location seemed a bit off the beaten path for this organization.
Stadium off-road racing combines desert off-road racing with oval racing. Many times desert off-road racers compete in the desert where one lap around the desert can be fifty miles or longer. That’s not very spectator friendly.
On the other hand, oval racing is very spectator friendly. The power of the oval for the spectator is that the oval track layout keeps the racers in front of the spectator at all times.
Therefore, “Stadium Off-Road Racing” is contested on a desert like track with twists, turns and jumps just like those encountered on desert terrain. However, the entire length of the course is only about a mile and all clearly visible for spectators in the grandstand. With the jumps, which take the trucks and buggies high into the air, this is a very entertaining form of racing.
Not your typical racing fan.
This type of racing does not attract the traditional oval or road course fan. It draws the off-road desert racing fan. That means a younger demographic by far. These are the folks who choose energy drinks (Red Bull/Monster) over beer (oval tracks) and wine (road courses). They play loud music and have announcers who seem as if they’ve been consuming far too much Red Bull themselves. I really enjoy stadium off-road racing.
I saw day one of the two-day show. The same racing classes would participate on both days. A departure from the normal show had only trucks, no buggies, racing. There were three classes of trucks for this weekend’s show. I missed the buggies.
This place was off the beaten path.
The Cycle Ranch property is out in the country with San Antonio, Texas being nearby. The property’s main attraction is their motocross racing. The place was a bit difficult to find in its rural location.
I arrived an hour before start time. Regular admission was $25 U.S. I asked if there was a senior discount although none was posted. It always pays to ask when you are an “experienced” person. The ticket seller looked at me and then asked her counterpart, “Should we give this fellow a senior citizen discount”. Ultimately the answer was “Yes” and I entered the premises for just twenty dollars.
Not much of a crowd today.
The entire “vibe” was much smaller than any other Stadium Off-Road show I had seen. There were less than 1,000 people in attendance. There didn’t seem to be more than thirty competitors in the three division program. They did have a good P.A. system with a very enthusiastic commentator.
Two factors decreased the quality of any photos I would take. First, the sun would be setting into the faces of the spectators. Secondly, the wind blew dust toward the spectators on this mostly sunny and warm day.
Nevertheless, I still got some very good shots of the trucks flying through the air on the tabletop jumps. I also caught one truck doing an end over end flip on video. I talked with one professional photographer for several minutes. He told me several of the jumps had been “shaved” after Friday’s (yesterday) qualifying because they were causing too many accidents.
Not much in the way of amenities.
The amenities of today’s track were limited. We’re talking porta-potties. There was one concession area that was not convenient to where most of the spectators were seated. On such a warm day I had a Budweiser and some homemade jambalaya. The beer was the best of two choices.
I watched part of the racing from the V.I.P. area. I only went there for one reason. The sun was at my back from this location. I had to talk my way into this area. The security guard who let me in said, “We’re having a hard time getting folks to come out to the track. We want to help our fans in anyway that we can”. That seemed like a very sensible approach to take.
I did not see any other trackchasers. I think they would have been easy to spot in such a sparse crowd. I fear this venue may be a “one-off” track. If you didn’t see it in 2011, this may be the last chance.
Overall, the competition was very good. It’s exciting to see the big trucks fly through the air for some 50-75 yards. There were a few tumbles as well. This might be one of the better videos to watch.
GULF COAST SPEEDWAY – ALVIN, TEXAS
I arrived at the track tonight at 8 p.m. That was perfect for one reason. The start time was 8 p.m. It was less perfect for another reason though. It was dark when I arrived. This made it tough for taking pictures and just getting a good sense of my surroundings.
The GCS offers a significant senior discount. Regular admission is ten dollars. However, us oldsters, yes the folks who quit their jobs because they didn’t need the money get in for half-price. Go figure.
Don’t go to Texas and not get the BBQ
The first item on the agenda was to get some grub. I hadn’t eaten since having jambalaya at the track this afternoon. Tonight’s concessions were handled by “Sloppy Bob”. It was BBQ. Nobody does BBQ like Texas. There’s a BBQ joint on nearly every corner. Except in the Dallas area I didn’t see any Waffle Houses. I had hoped to visit a WH but never got the chance. It’s entirely possible that I won’t eat in a WH for the rest of the year.
Mini-sprints and then more mini-sprints.
Tonight’s racing was a plethora of mini-sprints, both winged and non-winged. The woman announcer didn’t have a lot to say. She did mention the class name as well as the driver’s name. However during the race there was no commentary.
I knew that some of tonight’s classes were limited to “kids” and some allowed adults to race. I just didn’t know which class was for which. The track’s website wasn’t much help either.
That’s a lot of heat racing.
The cars raced on a nicely prepared 1/5-mile dirt oval. The lighting was good and I had an excellent view from my top row bleacher seat. The heat races were long at 15 laps each. That’s a lot of laps with car counts of 4-7 in each race. I’m estimating that I saw 150-200 laps of heat races!
The program was slowed for about thirty minutes with a bad crash on the back stretch. One car ran over the wheel of another and went into a series of end over end flips. The car came to rest on its side….and then caught fire. I have some video of the fire portion of this accident.
It took some time (about 15 seconds after the fire started) to get the driver out. When he did get out of the car I was surprised to see he was 12-14 years old! Fortunately, he was not harmed.
It doesn’t matter what age the drivers are.
I was impressed with how fast the cars were in all classes. I don’t think we need an “age rule” in trackchasing. Nowadays, drivers aged less than seventeen get around the track as good or better than anyone else. However, there are few countable tracks that race countable cars with only kids. Eliminating the age restriction would not add many new trackchasing opportunities.
I needed to confirm that adults were racing.
For five bucks I certainly got my share of racing tonight. I would think they could start earlier than 8 p.m. on a Saturday night though. Also, did the heat races really need to be fifteen laps?
Just to be sure, I perused the pit area closely in the dark. Yes, there were several “adults” getting out of racecars. That made the Gulf Coast Speedway “official”. It would go down in the record books at track #1,720.
This afternoon and evening I saw my 51st and 52nd lifetime tracks in Texas, the Lone Star state, yes the Lone Star state. That’s a pretty solid total for a state so far from home. This track keeps me in second place in the Texas state rankings according to the latest posted rankings. Wisconsin’s Ed Esser leads with 53 tracks. I’m only one behind! I never seem to be able to catch Ed in Texas. Every time I get close he pulls ahead. However, I’m going to keep the “Texas pressure” on Ed. He better get down here quick or he could lose his leadership position in the Lone Star state.
I have eight regularly scheduled oval tracks and a road course in Texas remaining to be seen along with a few other zombie tracks. This is one of the few states where most of the tracks I still need to see race on a weekly basis. Texas has almost no once a year county fair tracks.
Now you can see the entire up to date trackchaser rankings for these states. Just click on this link or paste it in your browser:
Note: Most individual totals (except mine) now come from the www.roamingtheraceways.com website. I am not a member of this group
Coming Soon – RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Exclusive Features!
Do some trackchasers carry an unfair geographical advantage?
Should foreign trackchasers be given a handicap so they can enjoy the fruits of trackchasing glory?
Thanks for reading about my trackchasing,
World’s #1 Trackchaser
Texas sayings: If you give a man a fish he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish he sits in a boat and drinks beer all day.
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – Dallas, TX (DFW) – 1,237 miles
RENTAL CAR #1
Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport – trip begins
Crandall, TX – 45 miles
Floresville, TX – 381 miles
Alvin, TX – 613 miles
George Bush (Houston) Intercontinental Airport - 667 miles – trip ends
RENTAL CAR #2
George Bush (Houston) Intercontinental Airport – trip begins
Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport – 255 miles - trip ends
Dallas, TX (DFW) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – 1,237 miles
Total air miles – 2,474 (2 flights)
Total rental car miles – 922 (2 cars)
Total miles traveled on this trip – 3,396 miles
TRACK ADMISSION PRICES:
RPM Speedway – Complimentary admission
Cycle Ranch – $20 ($5 senior discount)
Gulf Coast Speedway - $5 ($5 senior discount)
Total racetrack admissions for the trip – $25
LIFETIME TRACKCHASER COMPARISONS
There are no trackchasers currently within 300 tracks of my lifetime total.
1. Randy Lewis, San Clemente, California – 1,720
2. Ed Esser, Madison, Wisconsin – 1,413
3. Guy “The Kid” Smith, Effort, Pennsylvania – 1,412
Other trackchasing comparisons.
If you would like to read about other trackchaser comparisons (rankings/standings) please click on this link:
My trackchasing locations in 2011.
If you would like to see a list of the tracks that I have visited this year please click on this link:
Click here for current trackchaser rules
Official end of the RLR – Randy Lewis Racing Trackchaser Report