Saturday, June 30, 2012

Piney Run - How Not to Sail

My son and I fish at Piney Run several times per week.  He'd fish everyday there if I'd let him.  If we lived 2 minutes away, we just might.  My wife doesn't mind, because otherwise he'd go bat-**** crazy and drive us nuts, so it's some temporary relief for her.

We went there tonight with one of his friends.  As we were walking up to the pier, we noticed a mother and son debarking a sailing skiff from the trailer.  The son was probably about 16 years old.  They finally got the skiff off and he jumped in and drifted out as she pulled away to park the truck and trailer.  As she was pulling away, he started hollering at her to hurry up and stop wasting time.  It was then that I noticed he had a Mount St. Joe's t-shirt on.

She walked back after parking and he started hollering at her again to hurry up because she was wasting time.  I looked at him rowing in circles and noticed his Mount St. Joe's shirt again.  He pulled up to another dock so she could board.  I wasn't paying too much attention because I was more interested in pulling in another bass (and I don't mean a musical instrument).  But, I could hear the awkward and disagreeable conversation.  There was quite a commotion and him getting surly with her again.  I thought to myself, "If my son ever talked to my wife like that I'd......" Mount St. Joe's.

They then pushed away and they rowed in circles and fiddled with the oars.  A lot.  They switched places.  Some more yelling.  Mount St. Joe's.  I only noticed all this because they were within my casting range.  Finally, after about 15 minutes they called it quits and came back.

As they neared the pier on which I was fishing casting, I noticed the trepidation and hesitation in the mother's eyes.  And he berated her with much anger.  As if she could do not right and did not know anything.  Mount.  Saint.  Joe's.   "Do you want me to help you?"  "Oh, my gosh, that would be great."  I grabbed hold of the mast and the son with the Mount St. Joe's shirt got out of the boat and went to get the truck and trailer.  I then had a few minutes of pleasant conversation with the mom.

The son then returned with the vehicle and started backing it down the ramp.  Crooked.  Pull forward. Try again.  Other way.  Pull forward. Crooked.  Pull forward.  Wrong way.  Pull forward.  Turn the wheels.  Wrong way.  Pull forward.  Too far to the right. Back up.  Pull forward.  Pete.  Repeat.  This went on for several minutes.  He then got out and opened the hatch.  "That's a good idea.  He can now see out of the back a little better."  Then he closed the hatch.  Okay.  So much for that idea.  He then gets frustrated.  And yells at his mom.  MSJ.

He then says he's going to unhitch the trailer and lower it into the water, then pull the boat on.  "You won't be able to hold onto the trailer and it'll slip down the ramp if you do that", I tell him.  He gets frustrated.  Argues.  Gets mad.  Goes to Mount Saint Joe's.  Mom concurred.  They then switched places.

As we're sitting their waiting, I strike up a conversation with him.  "It's takes some time to learn how to back up a trailer."  "Well, my dad has a twenty three foot cruising boat and I can back that up just fine."  Joe's Saint Mount.

Pull forward.   Crooked.  Pull forward. Try again.  Other way.  Pull forward. Crooked.  Pull forward.  Wrong way.  Pull forward.  Turn the wheels.  Wrong way.  Pull forward.  Too far to the right.  Back up.  Pull forward.  Pete.  Repeat.

Son is now yelling at his mom that she doesn't know what she's doing.  Yes, same kid that did the exact same thing himself.  "I'll hold the skiff, you go help her."  He jumps out, they bicker some more and finally he unlatches the trailer and walks it down to the water.  She then backs to the water and they rehook it.  I pull the skiff forward.  "Pull the winch cable down to the boat, hook it up, and then winch it up to the trailer.  It'll be easier that way", I tell him.  "Okay."  He pulls it about 4 ft.  Stops.  Then wades out to the boat and pulls it by hand.  Good grief.  Mount.  Saint.  Joseph's.

At this point I walk away and begin fishing.  He knows what he's doing.  You know that by the way he talks. He starts lifting up the trailer while it's in the water to re-position it.  Now and then I peak over my shoulder to take note of their progress.  He finally gets it on the trailer.  Mom pulls forward, they both get out and shout out some big thanks.  "You're welcome.  Good luck on your next trip!"

They get in the car and I watch them pull away.  "Son - take a look.  They're driving away and they didn't even lower the sail."  Sail is still in full mast.  Fifteen feet into the air.  Flapping violently in the wind.  They'll figure it out eventually.  It may be when the boom snaps off, but they'll figure it out.

We fish for another 15 minutes, then finally get kicked out because the park is closing.  As we are driving down the road out of the park I noticed a car to the side of the road.  It's some lady and her son lowering the sail on the boat on their trailer.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June Potpourri

I don't have enough to say about any one item, so I decided to touch lightly on a few topics.


Today the Supreme Court upheld most of the provisions of the healthcare legislation that was passed.  Democrats are celebrating it as a victory for government mandated interference in private lives.  Republicans seem to be mostly upset, but are cheering Chief Justice John Robert's comment that the individual mandate is tax levied by the Congress, and thus a weapon the Republicans can use to oust Democrats in the House and Senate in this year's election.  Energize the base with a hot-topic and they will come out to vote.  Just ask John McCain.

The only thing that I really care about is maintaining the striking of the pre-existing clause and the lifetime cap on insurance.  Having a child with cancer will change your opinion on that real quick, or at least make you more aware of it.  My 4 year old daughter should not be punished for life when it comes to health insurance.

Should health insurance be extended to "children" up to age 26?  Perhaps if those "children" are still in college, but if they are not in college I think they should be out in the workforce getting their own insurance - or in this case, they can sign-up for the government-mandated insurance plan.

Carroll County Incinerator

The Carroll County Commissioners unofficially declared that their partnership with Frederick County on a government-subsidized trash incinerator is over.  They did say that Frederick County is free to explore other options.

I'm not educated enough to have a valid opinion, but I think I can have a reasonable opinion.  If the government is going to be in the business of running a trash incinerator (and I really don't think it should), then it makes sense for a rural county like Carroll to collaborate with another county, such as Frederick to get the job done.  You know, share the costs.  This opportunity does not exist with our other neighbors - Howard County and Baltimore County.  Do you really think they'll want to cooperate?  Of course not.  They don't like us.  Just ask Bobby Zirkin.

I was told that there other viable options, but I'm not sure what they are.  Another landfill?  Where?  Reuse the trash elsewhere to generate electricity?  Dump it in Liberty Reservoir?  I think that's the best option.

What do you think Carroll County should do?


It's been a tough week for the Eludius family.  My daughter broke the tibia in her left leg a few weeks ago.  We attribute this to one of the drugs used for her chemo to battle leukemia.  Sadly, on Tuesday she fell again, this time breaking both the tibia and fibula in her right leg.  She was in a lot of pain this time and cried a for 2 days, even with the medication.  She hasn't eaten much in the past few days.  As she is totally immobile for the time being, we were able to acquire a wheel chair, and as far as wheel chairs are concerned, this one is not that bad.  It folds (unlike the one we previously got from the Lion's Club), it has adjustable leg rests, removable arm rests, and wheelie bars in the back to prevent backwards flipping.  Though as nice as it is, I hope my daughter recovers quickly and we can return the wheelchair.

And she's feeling better now.  In case you were wondering.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Busch Gardens - Can't Touch This

As you saw from my last post we were in Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia last week.  Having a child with cancer, you instantly become a germaphobe.  You just can't risk having your child catch some bug resting on a faucet or a door knob because some dumbo wipes his donkey and doesn't wash his hands when he's done.  As my oldest daughter says all the time, "What's your problem??!"

In Busch Gardens, the sinks are all touch-less.  You put your hands under them and the water just pours out.  

That is not the case with the soap dispenser.  You have to use your hands to dispense the soap.  You're touching other people's germs in order to wash your hands.  Sure, you can use the back of your wrist.

And when you're done washing your hands, you get to grab a paper towel from the.......manually dispensed paper towel dispenser.  More transfer of germs.  Why would you have a touch-less sink, but force everyone to use their hands for the soap and paper towels?  I know they exist.  We have them at American Amalgamated Corrugated Conglomerates of America.  And it's difficult to do this with your elbow.  Trust me, I've tried.

Needless to say, this is the worst gripe I have with Busch Gardens.  Everything was fabulous, and I don't use the word fabulous very often unless I'm talking about the new RuPaul special on Bravo or the new line of Bottega Veneta men's messenger bags.

What are you pet peeves with cleanliness?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Casey Cares Trip to Williamsburg

The Casey Cares Foundation recently granted us a vacation to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The gift included 2 nights at the Embassy Suites hotel, 5 meal cards at the park, a gift card to Dunkin Donuts, and a gift card to Cracker Barrel.

My wife found a deal on the Internet for half off of a night at the Great Wolf Lodge and with a little help from the mother-in-law, we decided to tack that on to the first day of our vacation.  We left the metropolis of Eldersburg at 8am.  We made good time until we hit D.C. (of course).  An hour later we were in ......D.C.  We crept around the Capitol Beltway all morning.  Plus it was raining.  Awesome combination - D.C. rush hours (plural as it basically lasts all day) and rain.  Once we got onto I-95 south traffic started moving better.  Did you know that the speed limit on I-95 in Virginia is 70 mph?  That means you can go like 80 or 85 mph.

I decided that we should play the license plate game.  Unfortunately, I was the only contestant.  Sponge Bob occupied the rear passengers and Mrs. Eludius could care less.  Nonetheless, I counted 35 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and Washington D.C. and several U.S. Government plates.  I did see a Virginia U.S. Senator plate ( #2 - whoever that was driving a dark colored Ford Taurus) and a Virginia Congressman.

Just outside of Williamsburg we stopped for lunch at a Hardees.  There aren't enough Hardees in the world.  Good food.  We got 3 $5 grab bags.  Which means 6 sandwiches, 3 fries, 3 drinks, and 3 desserts.  Which means I got 3 sandwiches (mine, the extra, and my daughter's which she only ate a portion).  Good food.  I think it was a joint for the locals.  There was a gaggle of older people one corner.  Other elders entered and were looking at us and others in disgust, which I later interpreted as someone was in THEIR seats.

We finally made it to The Great Wolf Lodge around 1-ish.  The first thing my son says is, "this place looks creepy!"  My other two kids are excited.  After a quick check-in, we change and head to the waterpark.  If you've never been to a Great Wolf Lodge, you still have a lot of money in your pocket, but most importantly, you're missing out on a really neat place for the kids.  There were several tube water slides, a tidal pool, a lazy river, a boogy board ride, and the ubiquitous jungle-gym tree house waterpark mainstay.

The kids had a blast.  We got to spend two days there.  The tidal pool was the biggest thrill for my youngest daughter with leukemia.  She LOVED it!  The other two liked the slides, though my son would never admit it.  He was scared initially, but finally used one, then kept going on them, but insisted he didn't like it.

I love people watching and this was a great place for people watching.  There was one lady that looked like she was a ton of fun.  Every time she got in the tidal pool the water level went up a foot!  There were the ladies that wore bathing suits meant for 16 year olds.  There were the guys whose bellies went clear down over their waste band and almost to their crotch.  There were guys who looked like they had carpets on their back.  There were the unsupervised teenagers who exploited their new-found independence as an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of profanity.  And there were some cuties.

The first night we ate at Sal's By Victor in Williamsburg.  It was cussing fantastic.  My oldest got chicken tortellini (awesome!) and I got veal victor (amazing!).  My wife got a pizza, my son got chicken tenders (which he said were also amazing) and youngest got spaghetti.  I got an Italian dark beer which was fantastic.  I'm discouraged that I cannot remember the name of it.  Anyway, best meal of the vacation.

The second night we ate at Cracker Barrel.  We ate like pigs and ordered a ton of food.  And it came to $43.  How can all of that food be so cheap?  And I don't care what you say, I thought it was good.

The second night we stayed at the Embassy Suites.  Embassy Suites granted us 2 nights free of charge.  This place was so nice.  The sign on the door indicated that the nightly rate was $499.  Hokey smoke!  We don't ever stay at nicer hotels, so maybe we're easily thrilled.  Regardless, Embassy Suites had a gift pack ready for the kids when we got there.  Balloons were tied to a chair and there was a basket of treats, coloring books, crayons, and toys.  Additionally, there was a gift certificate for a free pizza at Pizza Hut.  The room was really nice.  Two big beds with comfortable pillows and blankets.  These were no $35 per night blankets with stains on them.  Nope.  These were the real deal.  And there was a door between the bedroom at the living room.

The next morning we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast.  It included make-your-own omelettes, eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast, muffins, danish, oatmeal, grits, cereal.  Basically if you eat it for breakfast, it was available.  I had a spinach, jalepeños, and cheese omelette.  Yummy!  Again, there comes the people-watching.  When there is free food, you should expect extreme gluttony.  I saw people with plates piled 10 inches high with eggs, potatoes, sausage, and bacon.  There was no way in hell these people were eating all of this food.  And if they did, there was no reason for them to eat again for several days.  There were several young teenaged boys helping themselves to French toast - grabbing the toast with their bare hands off of the tray.  And they were all eating holding their forks with their fists.  Don't parents teach their children how to behave and eat properly anymore?  And people wonder why we're bat-sh*t crazy with the hand-sanitzer these days.

The third day was our first day to Busch Gardens.  Believe it or not, this was the first time that I've ever been there.  I've heard that Busch Gardens is a nicer King's Dominion or Hershey Park.  I'll have to admit it is mostly true.  It's very well kept.  Getting there when it opened, I took advantage of the opportunity and rode The Griffin.  This is one of the hanging roller coasters where your feet dangle.  It was pretty cool.  There are two major drops.  The first one seemed like it was about 20 stories high.  From top to bottom was no more than 4 seconds - long enough for Martin O'Malley to introduce new taxes to Maryland.

Unlike most parks that I've visited, Busch Gardens is like a big circle.  You go from one village to another, from England, to Ireland, to France (where they easily surrender to any sort of threat), to Germany, to Italy, and back.  We ate lunch at the Festhaus both days.  Our meals, had it not been for the meal vouchers, would have cost about $70.  I got the 3 sausage meal with German potatoes, and saurkraut.  My kids got the turkey sandwich, which they really liked.  Boy that makes me hungry just thinking about it again!

We finally found the Sesame Street-themed section where my youngest had a blast.  They all rode the Gover roller coaster, which my youngest hated, that is until my oldest took her on it again, which then became the best ride there.  Funny how a sibling can make a scary ride fun.

Around 4:30 on the last day we decided to head home.  Again - it rained, and it rained hard.  We made good time, until we hit D.C.  I think I sense a pattern.  We inched along the Capitol Beltway - at 7:30pm.  Why is there rush hour traffic this late???  I had a friend who moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. for grad school, but decided to move back to South Carolina because he said it was guaranteed that if you needed to go out for milk there'd be a traffic jam at 10pm at night.

We finally made it home about 8:30pm.  After everyone had slept almost the entire ride home, they were already to party. Me?  I was ready to crash.  I wasn't able to crash until today.  I ended up taking a 2 1/2 hour nap.  I guess I needed it.

Thank you Casey Cares, Embassy Suites, Busch Gardens, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, and Cracker Barrel, for providing us with a wonderful vacation this summer.  We LOVED it!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Liberty High School Closing Follow Up

I've received a lot of feedback offline from people doubting my speculation that Liberty High School might be closing.  I did hedge it and said that it was not definite that Liberty High School was closing, but that the possibility is real.  I stand behind that statement.  School closing are on the table and Liberty High School is an obvious choice for closing.

To start, people with children in Carroll County Public Schools got this email:

Dear Parents,

Due to declining revenues, Carroll County Public Schools has been forced to reduce its operating expenses by $20 million over the past five years.  Other than continuing to reduce staff, we have exhausted most areas of reduction in our operating budget.   Therefore it is time to look at our facilities to ensure that we are using all of our school space in the best possible manner.   Accordingly, Carroll County Public Schools will be conducting a comprehensive facility study over the next several months.  

A major component of the study will be input from parents, employees, and members of the community.  As you may know, there has been a lot of public discussion about the declining student enrollment and the correspondingly increasing number of empty seats throughout our schools.  This is your opportunity to give us your thoughts.

Initially we will collect input from the public through the use of a survey.  Later we will have public hearings on any recommended options.You may find the survey at the following link:

Please take some time to complete this survey.   Some of the questions we will be asking will seek your input on various options for school system redistricting and school closures. The survey will be available from May 31 through June 15, 2012.

Results of the survey and other information will be made available as the study progresses. In addition, another community survey seeking input on specific proposals and recommendations will be conducted in late September or early October. The entire study will be completed by December 31, 2012.

I would like to thank you in advance for participating in this survey.  The decisions we make based on your input will affect all of us --  possibly for years to come. It is important to us as a school system and a community that your voice be heard.

Stephen H. Guthrie
Superintendent of Schools

If you go to the website, there is a link to take a survey that asks if residents would be open to the idea of closing schools that are under capacity, what to do with those facilities, and redistricting students to other schools.  Take the survey and read the questions.

Additionally, I heard from someone who works for the public school system about which schools were candidates.  From a logical perspective, it makes sense.  Southern Carroll County is served by three high schools - Liberty, Century, and South Carroll.  Despite what others have said, my understanding is that these schools are not at full capacity.  Century High School is new.  South Carroll was recently renovated.  Liberty, despite only being 30-some years old, is the oldest non-renovated school in the bunch.

Another argument against Liberty closing is that it is considered one of the top high schools in the state (or was it the country?).  I firmly believe that has more to do with the caliber of students and their parents than the school.  Those children will succeed in other schools just as well at other schools.  This high quality teachers will be distributed to the other schools.  Hopefully, the bad teachers will be terminated.  Yes, there are bad teachers.  Don't fall into the lie that all teachers are wonderful.  There are bad employees in every company and organization.

Therefore, based on these facts and solid rumors, I stand by the statement that Liberty High School is a candidate to close if Carroll County is unable to close the budget gap created by Governor Martin O'Malley.

If you disagree, please let me know why.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Liberty High School Closing?

If you stay in touch with local politics, you know the pain that the counties in Maryland are suffering right now that was handed to them compliments of Governor Martin O'Malley.  For decades the state has managed and funded the state pension system for teachers.  Now the counties are being forced to fund the state pension for the county teachers without any say in the matter.  As a result, now the counties are forced to take drastic measures.

In Carroll County, local leaders have trimmed the county budget as far as they think they can reasonably cut it without critically impacting county services.  Now, still several million dollars short of meeting the new requirement to fund the state pension, the county is now forced to make some very uncomfortable decisions that will have long-term implications.  Carroll County is now seriously considering closing schools in an effort to make more funds available to start funding the state pension.

My sources say that there is a tiered approach to which schools may be closing.  Tier 1 (schools that are most likely to close) are Liberty High School in Eldersburg and The Carroll Springs School for special needs children.  If this does not close the budget gap that Governor O'Malley has passed along, then several more schools will be on the chopping block, including North Carroll High School, one of the middle schools in Westminster, and another elementary school, whose name I cannot recall.

The county is seriously considering these options because, despite going on a building spree the past 10 years, thanks to massive funding for education by Martin O'Malley, the school populations are predicted to decline for the next several years before starting to increase again in 2018.  If the schools are closed, the Carroll County Public School system is required by law to hand the property back to the county, who retains the right to determine the fate of the property and the facility.  This means that the county can find an alternate use of the facility, such as another senior center or community center, or they can sell the property to a private interest, or they can demolish the school and sell the land.

Martin O'Malley - you keep saying that education is a priority, but it sounds like your spending habits are conflicting with your education priorities.  Rather than find ways to reduce the inflating state budget, you passed along a cost to the counties that the state has funded for many decades.  These counties are now forced to make decisions, based on your inability to control spending, that are now going to severely impact schools, teachers, children, and education.  Even worse, at the front-line of your careless decisions are the special-needs children that rely on us, children that you seem content with streamlining back into an education system that will not provide them with the care and services you need.  But that's the kind of governor you are.  And you know the teachers' unions will still blindly support you.

My children were really looking forward to going to Liberty High School.  Sorry kids, it looks like Martin O'Malley is taking away your dreams.

Now Open in Eldersburg - The Sports Nut

You'll recall in May I mentioned that a new retail shop was coming to Eldersburg in the Liberty Station shopping center.  This is the shopping center with the Little Professor, which is closing soon.

I had originally thought a party supply store was opening there, but the sign is up now and it's called The Sports Nut.  I haven't actually been in this place yet, but it looks like they sell novelty sports items and apparel, sort of like Baltimore Sports & Novelty in Owings Mills.

Have you been there yet?  What do you think of this place?

Mayor Rawlings Blake - Ignore the Facts!

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake either has a short memory, is ignorant, or chooses to ignore the facts.  Baltimore County State Senator Patrick McDonough recently challenged the mayor to a debate to discuss the recent rash of youth violence against white residents and commuters.  She decline to debate and instead responded with a rash of blatantly incorrect and misleading information.

Her response to the debate request was, according to, ""Delegate McDonough should debate himself and his Republican colleagues who supported deep cuts to the police department and cuts to gun prosecution as part of the state doomsday budget."

Read more:

What the honorable mayor seems to have forgotten, or conveniently left unsaid was the fact that the "doomsday budget" was a plan created by Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley and his left-falling cronies in the Maryland General Assembly.  Seriously, in the Maryland Senate there are 12 Republicans in a body of 47 senators.  In the Maryland House of Delegates there are 43 Republicans in a house of 147 delegates.  To state that the Republicans in Maryland have any say in any of the policies and laws is an absolute joke.  To say that the Republicans are responsible for the doomsday budget is an intentional attempt to mislead the public.  Any law that passes needs the approval of the majority of Democrats.  There is no possible way that the Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly could have passed a "Doomsday" budget that did not win the approval of the Democrats.  There simply is not enough of them to make a difference in the vote.

But you have to admit, it makes for a great sound bit on the evening news.  And fortunately for Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the Democratic Party, most Marylanders are too stupid or closed-minded to realize or appreciate that the information she gave is entirely inaccurate and misleading.  Therefore, the Doomsday budget and the subsequent tax increases and tax pass-thoughs are the fault of the Republican Party.

Regardless of how silly Pat McDonough tends to be, you still have to tell the truth.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Eldersburg K-Mart - Closing on Sunday!!!

This weekend is a sad day for Eldersburg.  The long-time stalwart tenant of the reliable and consumer-friendly Carrolltown Center will be closing.  After about 35 years, K-Mart is closing its doors on Sunday and hundreds, if not thousands of people will lose their job and join the throngs of Maryland's unemployed, thus further stymieing Martin O'Malley's desire to brag about Maryland's thriving economy.

Who are we kidding?  K-Mart has not served Eldersburg since Wal-Mart opened in the mid-1990's.  It's antiquated shopping model is a dinosaur, the check-out lines out-dated and inefficient, and their products unwanted by consumers.  Yet sadly, all 5 people that work there will be without work.

Hopefully, (before the "support the failing businesses" crowd attacks me) Black Oak Associates can kick-start its redevelopment plan into gear, tear down the mall, and put a high-quality (notice I said high quality rather than the ambiguous and meaningless 'quality') shopping destination in its place.  And a thriving shopping establishment will employ more than 5 people.  So while they may be unemployed for the short-term, a new facility will bring temporary construction jobs, modern and more pleasing shopping center, and hundreds of permanent retail and management positions to the area.

I will say that I'll miss the folks standing on the corner of Route 26 with their big signs on a stick waiving to people to shop at K-Mart before it closes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

2012 Dover 400 Recap

You have the tickets, right?


You have the tickets?  To get into the track?  To watch the race?

Mother, do you have the tickets?

I don't have the tickets.  I thought you got the tickets?

Me?  I thought you got the tickets?

This was the conversation between my parents and me as we were about 20 minutes outside of Dover on Sunday on our way to the 2012 Dover 400.  This has become an annual event for us, this being the 4th annual trip.  However, we had a slight communication problem.

My dad suggested we turn around and go home.  I told them to hold off a minute and let me think about it.  We didn't have tickets.  We thought.  Then we sat right down, figured it out, what NASCAR clues is all about - hey, we're really smart.  Wait - this race doesn't sell out.  At worst we'll have to sit in nose bleeds on a turn.  But that's not too bad.

My favorite driver Carl Edwards.  He obviously didn't see me.

However, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. saw me.  Click on this picture and tell me he's not looking right at me.  It's like he knew I was taking his picture.  Thanks, Dale!  By the way, one of my fraternity brothers built the custom staircase in his house.  It's beautiful.

We stopped at Subway in Smyrna (another annual tradition - get donuts and $5 footlongs).  I got on my iPhone and began trying to buy tickets online.  It didn't recognize my ID or password.  I created another ID, but this failed as it said I was already using that email address.  Arghh!  Oh, well.  Guess I'm buying tickets at the ticket window at the race.

We get to the track, park in handicapped parking, and I tell my parents to sit tight and I'll go get tickets.  I walk about a quarter way around the outside of the track, which seems like half a mile, and I find a guy standing their with an information sign.  I ask him where I can by tickets.  He points me back to whence I just came.  I finally find the ticket window and I'm 3rd in line.  Not too bad.  The guy in front of me is swaying back and forth.  He obviously had a case of Miller Lite for breakfast.  He gets to the window and practically falls through it.  The girl behind the window looks beyond Mr. Drunk and makes eye contact with me.  I start laughing hysterically.  She retains her composure.  There are several gestures pointing in either direction.  He bumps his head pulling out of the window, points in one directions, she points in another, he spins around, practically falls over, then stands there befuddled.  She makes eye-contact with me again.  I shake my head and smile.  She smiles.  Finally, Mr. Drunk staggers away.

I come to the window.  "I bet this is a really interesting job."  "Some days it's really interesting."  I tell her I need 3 seats by Pit Row.  She taps away on the computer.  "I have three seats next to that guy that was here."  "Mr. Drunk?  Well, he'll be passed out after a couple of laps. That should be fine."  "Let me see if any other seats have opened up.  Yep, here we go."  I get my seats - 3 for $65 each.  Center, row 4.  Awesome!

It's a funny thing about NASCAR tracks.  The closer you are to the track the less expensive the seats are.  Oh, that's right - it's louder, more dangerous, lots of tire speckles landing on you, and higher risk of being bashed in the head with a 90 pound tire flying over the safety barriers at 140 miles per hour.

I sprint back to the truck, grab my parents, throw both of them over my shoulders fireman-style and double-time it through the parking lot, past the truck selling new NASCAR camouflage gear, past the 45 other NASCAR gear  trucks, then hustle up the stairs to our seats.

We weren't there long before they (the NASCAR officials) prayed to Jesus, thanks God for the soldiers, damned the atheists, Jews, and Muslims, and blessed the race, then sang the National Anthem, and flung a giant flag over top our heads.  I was not able to get a reasonable picture of the Texas Air National Guard F-16's doing the fly-over.  I could see them coming and boy were they LOUD.  Almost as loud as Jeff Gordon's engine.

The race finally gets under way.  I love the roar of the first couple of laps.  Then when I can no longer hear anything and the buzzing starts, I put on the noise-cancelling headphones.  And not 9 laps later we have a major pile-up between turn 2 and 3.  Which is the other side of the track.  Which we cannot see because our seats are too low to the track.  Another reason why you need the more expensive higher seats.

Lap 9 caution flag:

Results of the crash.  "Look ma!  No trunk!"

"Look, Ma!  No front end!"  Funny story about this one.  My mom and I were listening to the Jeff Gordon channel on our NASCAR scanner.  This gives us a live feed of Jeff communicating with his pit crew and some woman who kept dropping the F-bomb.  Jeff Gordon complimented Stephen Leicht for how fast his car was.  The pit chief hammered back, "Yeah, Jeff.  He's running as fast as you with only half a car."

Here's the end of Casey Mears' day.  He actually needed a tow.  He didn't fair as well as Leicht.

As was David Gilliland, who needed a push.

And Pablo Mantoya.  How in the heck can he see where he's going???

You never know what's going to happen on pit row.  I saw a guy get hit by a car and go flying over the hood.  Of course I didn't have my camera ready, but he got right back up and went to work on the car coming in.  These guys are tough!  Here's a picture of a tire getting away from the pit crew.  This is a penalty!

The race had a few events, which is more than the other Dover 400 races that we've attended.  Carl Edwards blew a tire and kissed the wall.  Day over.  Two other guys blew engines, which resulted in a plume of white smoke resembling hot gas coming out of Martin O'Malley's mouth when he talks about moving Maryland forward.  Jeff Gordon (my mom's favorite) ran a good race keeping his lap times around 24, occasionally dipping into the high 23's.  However, he said that something was wrong and he began to fall back.  He pulled into the pits, lost 2 laps, but got his car fixed.  He made up a lot of time and ended up finishing on the lead lap in 13th place (I think).

Here's the end of Carl Edward's day.  He needed a little push off of the track.  What's black and yellow, has ten legs, and goes 4 miles per hour?  Carl Edward's car.

Carl wasn't the only one getting a push.  So did David Reutimann.

Jimmy Johnson, like him or not, owns the Dover 400.  He's won 4 of the last 7(?) and 3 of the 4 races that I've been to.  He had his car painted up for the new Madagascar movie and his pit crew wore clown wigs like Marty the Zebra wears.  Or are the guys in the pit crew a bunch of clowns anyway?

One lap to go!

Checkered flag.  Jimmy Johnson wins.

I thought this was cool.  Pull up to the wall......

and do a burnout!

 No NASCAR event is complete without some people watching.  Every fan has their favorite driver:

This handsome fella with the long flowing dark hair loves Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

 This young man in the jean shorts and tank top and tattoos likes Jeff Gordon.

Tony Stewart.


Here's another Tony Stewart fan, but with the high dollar official jersey AND hat.  Note the cigarette. This is comparable to football fans wearing jerseys of their favorite criminals.  I mean football players.

And did I mention that I was the only person out of 90,000 fans there that was NOT smoking?  Actually, second-hand smoking.  Ugh. Cough-cough, gag.

There are some hot NASCAR chicks, too.  I love a girl in a pink shirt and short-shorts.

 I was actually trying to get the girl in the green shirt, but instead the camera chose to focus on her bare chested boyfriend with his boxer briefs pulled up higher than his shorts.  If he was cut like Pitbull or Flo-Rida, I'd give him a break.  But he's cut like Earl down at DJ's Autocare.

This girl was kind of cute.  She was a bit older, but presented herself well, except that she's drinking Bud Light.  She's obviously had some mouth trauma and no longer has any taste buds.

It's bright, hot, and sunny in Dover.  You need a hat.  When you forget to bring a cap or cannot afford to buy a Kurt Busch hat, you improvise.  With a paper bag.  And women's sunglasses.  "I'm...too sexy for my hat. So sexy..."

 Working in the pit can get boring.  Check out this guy in black doing NASCAR yoga.  Chubby in orange ought to take some lessons.

I love watching the teamwork of the pit crew.  Imagine filling up your tank and changing all four tires in like 11 seconds?  Midas?  Jiffy Lube?  Are you listening?

 Kasey Kahne doing a burnout as he pulls out of the pit.

 And that was the 2012 Dover 400!

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