I feel a need, a need for speed!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, January 14, 2008

"I feel a need, a need for speed!"
   Tom Cruise in Top Gun

I made a Pit Stop on my Journey north today. An un-scheduled pit stop...though not completely unexpected. I stopped at "Big Daddy" Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. I'm driving down the highway...saw the signs...passed the signs....saw the turnoff...passed the turnoff...almost. Yes...I almost bypassed an auto museum. Above all...a Drag Racing one.
The other day before heading to Tampa I had done an internet search for auto museums. Why you ask? You probably aren't asking why...but I'll tell you anyway. Because when I had stopped at the Florida tourist information both a month and a half ago I had picked up a brochure for an auto museum that was close to Tampa. Then, when I needed it, I couldn't find it. In doing this internet search one of the links that popped up was Don Garlits Museum. I ignored it...wasn't close to Tampa. Then today I almost drove right by...but I didn't! So you all get to enjoy some pictures of cars today. I've done planes & trains. Might as well do automobiles. Planes, Trains & Automobiles! Sounds like a movie title. Oh right! It is.
I grew up watching drag racing. Surprise...surprise! If you've been reading every single one of my blog entries you know I'm a car guy. You know I like Mustangs and Ferraris. I don't think I've ever mentioned that I like drag racing. Car Craft Magazine...Popular Hot Rod...Mustang Monthly...I bought them all. I boxed them up and they followed me around for 20 years of moving. And I've moved around a lot (another story for another day). Finally threw most of them out about 5 years ago.
Big Daddy Don Garlits...ChaCha Muldowney...John Force...Don Prudhomme...Connie Kalita. All race names I remember. Race cars I knew have been carefully restored and are on display here in this museum. Don Garlits has been described as "the "King of the Dragsters," and could be considered the patriarch of Top Fuel Drag Racing. His Swamp Rat series of 34 hand fabricated black race cars carried him to 144 national event wins. Added to his marvellous racing accomplishments is a Florida tourist complex called Garlits Auto Museums in Ocala, FL.  The Drag Racing Museum and Classic Car Collection, 17 World Championship Titles, and numerous racing milestones are all reality because Don first saw them as worthwhile dreams. Garlits' distinct ability to conceptualize his dreams has allowed him to be master over the end result."
When we moved to Calgary in 1996 we lived in the deep south. Not far away was Calgary's Race City. For 4 summers I volunteered at the race track on the drag strip. Either spending an evening or day at the ET booth handing out timing slips to the race car drivers or pushing a broom in the water box cleaning out chunks of rubber that would fly off the tires as the drivers heated up their tires doing their burnouts. Also spraying down the water box to help out in the burnout process and directing the drivers to their positions at the Christmas tree. It was an extremely loud, dirty (getting sprayed by rubber and water) and exciting time.
A couple of times a year the jet cars would make an appearance. These 12,000 horsepower machines that use a jet engine to propel it down the quarter mile track in around 6.5 seconds at a speed of 250 mph are amazing. The first time I saw them I was standing behind them. The first year I volunteered at Race City the ET Booth was a couple hundred feet behind the starting box on the return loop of the race course. I'm standing there freezing my butt off because this was springtime and at night. The driver pushes full throttle to take off and I could have roasted a marshmallow. That's the amount of heat a jet engine creates at full thrust. The second time I saw them I was next to them, but above on the timing tower. I had ear plugs and head phones and the noise was still deafening. The third time I was standing between them. I've heard that driving the cars are a rush. Being this close to them is the next best thing.
For 4 summers I would stand between 3000 horsepower top fuel dragsters and funny cars as they did their burnouts. On occasion the engine would blow up on the starting line. What a rush. Engine parts raining down on the track. I've seen cars crash midway through their mile runs at a couple hundred miles per hour and cars that ended up in the field at the end of the drag strip because their chute never opened up. Walking around the pits was great. As a volunteer we were able to go where paying customers couldn't. It was fantastic being this close to the action.
Then we moved to the west end of town as we had built a new house and I spent two summers doing the landscaping. Then I got involved with volunteering at Church and with Nick's Air Cadets and I haven't been to the track since. I've often thought about going back. Maybe one day.
"If you think the last four words of the national anthem are 'Gentlemen, start your engines,' you might be a redneck."
                                                                Jeff Foxworthy
I found Don Garlits Bio quite interesting. The part about him conceptualizing his dreams. Then seeing everything that he has accomplished. Something to think about...don't you think?
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