We parked in a field. The cars around us a cross section of what you see on a Pennsylvania highway, but skewed heavy towards pickup trucks. We left our pickup at home. It’s low on gas. Until last year a Sunoco station sat at the entrance to our neighborhood. When we needed gas, an eight-minute errand corrected the problem. That station closed, the rent got too high. Now we need to cross town to get gas. We drove our Hyundai instead.
Walking into the park, we trailed a group of twenty-somethings—eight or ten of them. The women wore long dresses, floral print or some other festive pattern with small Mennonite bonnets pinned to the back of their heads. The guys wore jeans and black tee-shirts with race car graphics printed on the front. The rest of the crowd resembled the people we might follow into a high school football game back when Sophie played in the marching band.
As the crowd thickened near the gate, Susan and I slipped on our masks. Eli went maskless. For the past two weeks he attended school without one. Before the first day, I think he planned to mask-up, but when he arrived, no one else wore one. He’s a sensible kid, but he’s still a kid. I remember high school. I wouldn’t have worn a mask either. On Tuesday, they’ll all wear masks, it’s a new state law. Looking through the crowd last night, no other masks were evident.
We weren’t late, but definitely not early either. The bleachers filled before we got there. Well off to one side, away from the action, we found a spot to sit. Mostly families with kids in this section. A polite crowd—no cussing, no drunks.
We could see four snack-shacks, but they all had lines thirty yards long. All of us hungry, me to the point where my blood sugar crashes, and I start to sweat. Susan waited in line for burgers and fries. I sat with Eli. Last night was his night, he deserved company in the grandstands.
The demolition derby at Buck’s Motorsports was Sophie’s idea. For Eli’s birthday gift, she scoured the internet for local for car events. He watches that stuff on You Tube. Dirt racing, monster trucks, motor cross with big jumps. Sometimes Sophie watches with him. She knew he would love a night at the track watching jalopies smash into each other.
I might have seen four or five masks all night. Easily two thousand people attended, but this isn’t the mask crowd. To be honest, I expected to catch some grief: “Democrats aren’t wanted here!” or “Go back to Philadelphia!” That sort of thing. Nothing like that happened. The people in the stands were nice to us, probably nicer than I’d be if the one unmasked person in a thousand sat down next to us.
They broke the night into five categories. Muscle cars, compacts, modern V8s, modern V6s, and the “heavy hitters.” The heavy hitters, mostly steel cars from the fifties and sixties, served as the encore. The crowd went wild when two oversized Ford trucks locked front bumpers and spun in a circle.
My favorite heat was the V6s, the minivans and station wagons. Watching the drivers destroy cars so similar to mine gave me slightly higher confidence of walking away from a car crash. By the end of the match, the trunk/hatch area had accordioned on all the cars, pancaked right up to the back seat. The front-ends were smashed flat, the axels bent, the wheels torn, but inside the cab, everything looked fine. A couple of cars briefly burst into flames, but they were easily extinguished with a small break in the action.
I didn’t go into the night with a good feeling. I worried about the masks, aggressive fans, boredom, or simply feeling out of place. But in the end, it was a funny, relaxing night with my family. Something I wholeheartedly recommend. Sophie, away at college, couldn’t participate, but we kept her in the loop by sending her photos and updates all night. She and Eli are already planning our visit next summer.
As we drove out of the parking area at the end of the night, Susan said “It just doesn’t feel right not to crash into all these cars.” Thankfully, she left it at that.