two thousand twenty
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It's Saturday, the day before Mother's Day. Any other year it would be just another regular Mother's Day with cards and calls and maybe a cookout, but today is different. There's a shiny new adventure waiting for me. This evening I will experience what it's like to drive a real race car on a real racetrack in a real race - or a facsimile thereof.

The vehicle is only a stripped out four-cylinder stock job and the track, Black Rock Speedway, is a half-mile clay oval in a backwoods upstate New York town, but it is indeed a genuine race with a three-foot tall trophy and $100 cash prize at stake. And, I will be driving on the same track where years ago, such racing greats as "Dutch" Hoag and Maynard Troyer once trod.

A friend advised, "Pretend it's a lot car like we used to drive when we were kids." Well, that's easy for him to say. The only vehicles I drove before age 16 were my family's John Deere tractor with hand clutch and an old International pickup truck without reverse. I'm sure those vehicles were no match for the hot rod 1950-something cars he and his buddies bounced over abandoned hay fields and through the woods. Later I note this same friend tells his wife: "Just drive like you're on your way home from work and keep to the inside." Must be he has different advice for different people, but no matter.

In the olden days, girls in our house always had more important things to do than play with lot cars-things such as washing dishes, hanging laundry, cleaning, barn chores or homework. As time passed, several farm tractors, half a dozen cars, three pickup trucks, two farm trucks, a couple of motorcycles and a tractor-trailer contributed to my driving experience. There was even a time when I thought going coast to coast in a big truck would be my ultimate driving adventure, but in fact, I'm looking forward to this new experience with as much zest as I would have four-plus decades ago.

I sign the driver's waiver and struggle into an ill-fitting fire suit provided by the track owner. I sort through the collection of fresh-out-of-the-junkyard track cars lined up against the fence to find one that fits me, but they're all too big, seat-wise. There is no way I can ever reach the pedals adequately in any of them, so I pick the cornflower blue Number 4 Nissan. The windows have been removed and a regulation roll cage installed. Stripped of everything that makes a car friendly, there is only the specially designed stainless steel driver's seat with no cushions. The shoulder brackets, designed to protect the driver in a roll over, encase the back of the seat and prevent me from raising my arms to a comfortable driving position. The door is welded shut and there is no rear seat or carpet to soften the noise from the now sans-muffler engine.

Like they say in the military, hurry up and wait. I pace and circle; circle and pace in anticipation. Someone yells, "Let's go racing!" ...

*this excerpt is from "Black Rock Racer" by Beth Hoad, published in thw 2010 edition of the Wayne Writers Guild anthology of stories, "More Stories from John's Back Room", available from members of the Guild or Books, Etc., Macedon.


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