A few years ago, I experienced my first auto race as a person who had become completely blind suddenly, which I describe in Day at the Races.
I am happy I had the opportunity to attend my second race, American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Laguna Seca Raceway, as a person who is blind, with my brother. I am also pleased my wife Kathy was able to accompany us and visit with my brother’s girlfriend while my brother and I were at the races in the beautiful hills above Monterey, California.
I attended these sports car races for two straight days which presented unique learning opportunities for prioritizing, planning and preparation, which included ensuring I packed Assistive Technology (Low & High-tech), food, beverages and any essential medical supplies to promote a successful trip. When I had eyesight I had been to this 2.238 mile (3.602 KM), 11 corner road race course track with many elevation changes many times, therefore I was prepared to do some walking throughout the days.
After an excellent lunch in Carmel we dropped off my wife Kathy at my brother’s girlfriend’s house and my brother and I spent a few hours at the race track getting ourselves oriented to prepare us for the main race day. I will explain more about the track and the cars in Day Two. While my brother and I were exploring the race track, Kathy was visiting with my brother’s girlfriend and keeping their dog company. After a short exploration around the race complex and track, watching and listening to some cars practicing and qualifying, we returned back to my brother’s girlfriend’s house and we met up with my wife Kathy, my brother’s girlfriend and we went out and had a delightful dinner. After dinner we sat and enjoyed each other’s company, visiting and talking throughout the evening.
When we arrived at the race track complex and found the parking for the disabled, I was pleasantly surprised to find they also had special golf like carts to assist the disabled to get to the race track from the parking area, and return rides after the event. I remember when I had eyesight and drove myself to many races at this track I would park for what seemed like miles away, and walked over multiple hills to get to the race track. Therefore, you can tell why I was so happy to find these accommodations.
After arriving at the race track I was very glad to find many of the dirt paths that used to be steep and narrow trails around some locations at the race track many years ago were now paved, widened and from my observation (sense only), the paths I did walk on seemed to be wheel chair accessible. Finding the paths around the race track to be more accessible was a great relief since I walk with the assistance of two canes, one long white cane and one support cane. Walking on steep, narrow and rocky dirt trails with a variety of elevation changes could have been hazardous with no eyesight.
When I first arrived at the race track there wasn’t a problem holding a conversation with my brother as the cars whizzed by us producing a consistent sound. My brother looked at the paper schedule we were given and found this race to be cars from one auto manufacturer and one type of car. This was the reason for the consistent sound emanating from the cars. After that race ended we took the opportunity to walk to and through the pits where I was able to touch some racing wheels and tires that were stacked near a semi truck trailer from one of the many tire manufacturers that supplied tires to the racing teams. We took this opportunity of being close to the racing teams to talk with a member of my favorite ALMS GT racing team, the Flying Lizard Motorsports.
After exploring the pits enabling us to get close to the race cars, race teams, food and drinks, along with many other things to do and see we stopped shortly for some freshly grilled lunch. After our lunch we walked back to a location near the track for the start of the main race of the day which the Flying Lizard Motorsports Team was racing in. We set up our portable chairs we carried on our backs, that doubled as day packs just outside the two fences that protected us from the cars on the track. We relaxed in the sun and took time to replenish ourselves with cool drinks we carried in our daypacks, along with some snacks.
Before we knew it, it was time for the cars to start their engines and do some warm up laps. I immediately noticed a drastic difference in the sound of these cars compared to the cars we heard when we first arrived at the race track. Then the flag person waved the green flag to start the race, I imagined in my minds-eye, since even if I had vision we could not see the flag person from our position on the race track. Soon after the start of the race the scream of the cars breezed past us at much faster speeds then the cars in the earlier race. The cars produced a variety of sounds which I enjoyed. Some produced loud deep growls, some loud wines, some smooth quiet whirling noises and other unique sounds came from the variety of cars and manufacturers. Not long after the start of the race the cars were spread all around the track, in clustered groups as I listened to the noises blast past me and felt the rumble in my body. I could distinguish the speed differentiation between the cars, since there were five races within the one race with all types of cars on the track at once racing within their class. This meant that some faster cars were required to negotiate their way around the slower cars, as they battled between others within their own class. When the cars roared, growled, whizzed and buzzed as they accelerated by me I could not hear my brother talking right next to me. I was filled with exhilaration and was having a wonderful time sensing, feeling, smelling (rubber, brakes, oil and hot engines), and hearing the race. This race was a six hour endurance race, therefore we moved to different locations around the track throughout the race to observe and sense the cars at different locations around the race track. This allowed my brother to see, and for me to sense how the cars handled the different terrain and corners during braking and acceleration points. Moving around the track also gave us the chance to stretch our legs and increase blood circulation.
While my brother and I were out in the bright sun, enjoying the fresh air, gentle breeze, and experiencing a wonderful day at the races, my wife Kathy and my brother’s girlfriend were off near the beach having their own enjoyable day shopping and going to yard sales.
After our enjoyable day at the races we met up with my wife and my brother’s girlfriend to share a pleasurable and delicious dinner and dessert, before we packed up to leave the next day.
I hope my experience of attending an auto race with no eyesight will encourage you to focus on your abilities, adapt to any life altering circumstances that will enable you to participate in activities you enjoy.
I also hope we can look beyond our disabilities, differences or temporary challenges and focus on our abilities with a positive can do attitude (with medical advice as required prior to ensure safety) despite any discomfort we might be experiencing.
Has anyone left their comfort zone to participate in an activity they would think could be a challenge? Does anyone have examples they want to share? Any other comments to assist in encouraging us to focus on our abilities and to assist us to adapt to any life altering circumstances to participate in activities we enjoy?
We all look forward to hearing your comments and experiences.
Global Dialogue Center