Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Day Twelve: Track Day!

Well, Merry Christmas to me, the stars have aligned themselves yet again.  I've been wanting to ride on a track for ages, but the opportunity has eluded me until now.  Not only is it a big hit to this starving artist's budget, but "track days" seem to be designed to directly conflict with the working classical musician's schedule.  A friend (former employer, actually) recently became a lifetime member of the Inde Motorsports Ranch near Willcox, AZ.  What this means to you and me is that he can ride there whenever he feels like it, AND he can bring a guest (that's me!) for free.  So, instead of paying several hundreds of dollars to ride on the track with, oh, a zillion other people, I paid nothing, had my bike transported in the luxury accommodations of the Iron Horse BMW enclosed multibike trailer, and shared the entire track with oh, maybe 10 other riders at most. I am the Track Princess!

Here's the track.  2.75 miles and 21 turns.  What's not to like?


No traffic, road surface issues or grumpy law enforcement to worry about, plus lots of safe run off in the event of a miscalculation all add up to... zoom zoom!

The picture looks so simple, but without a map in your head, it's easy to feel a bit lost on your first few laps. Those little secondary lines don't look so secondary when you're out there, and the map doesn't show the slight elevation changes.  The hills are just steep enough to leave you wondering what's coming next until you have the circuit memorized in your head.  And that's all part of the fun!


Someone snapped this during my "pre-flight" check.




Look at all the pretty bikes!




Although I have nothing to compare it to, I'm told this is a pretty nice facility as far as tracks go.  I'm inclined to believe it.  Located near Chiricahau National Monument and the Willcox Playa Wildlife Area (a popular area to view sandhill cranes, among other birds), the vistas are beautiful (not that you're gazing at scenery while racing around the track, or anything).  There's an observation tower with a bar (I assume those imbibing are limiting themselves to watching, not riding or driving), showers (stocked with fluffy towels and scented bath products), classroom facilities including flat screen video equipment and a glass topped table made from a Ford Cosworth engine, a pretty little dining patio with a very nice barbecue and garden sculptures...



and...


AND...

...a kitchen bigger than my entire apartment.  Fully equipped with the best of the best.  Check out THIS baby.  Its brakes and 0-60 time rival that of many of the machines out on the asphalt here today.  Serious cooks know exactly what I'm talking about.  I heard a rumor that the chef gets a break on the cost of class time, so I'll be back, armed, and ready to duel for that privilege.


I was in fine company - owners of motorcycle dealerships, riding coaches and real live racers! They were friendly and helpful, showing me the map and explaining the strategy for each turn (the "delayed apex" line one uses for turns on the street no longer applies!) and taking me on "sight laps" of the track.  They were graciously complimentary of my riding skills, but served up some deserved friendly fire at my footwear* (hiking boots, the only real weak spot in my suit of armor).  And although they could pass me at unthinkable speeds, I ended the day feeling good about my ability.

Part of the fun of riding a motorcycle (especially on the track) is that in your mind, you look very, very cool.  Something like this...

That's "FOG," the kind EX500-er who bailed me out in this post by mailing me valve cover bolts for my Kawasaki.

or even this...

I'll explain where I got this photo later.
 
Of course, you and I know better.  I'll never look like those photos.  My bike is red!


Chances are, I looked more along the lines of this...



Me (and Kawi), touring in Colorado.



To be fair, that's not quite right either. If you know where to look, there is some physical evidence on my motorcycle that suggests I was somewhere between the two.


Despite my inexperience in this new riding environment, I do think I set at least one record...

Happy, Happy Track Princess!

...the one for biggest smile!


*Tracks often offer formal instruction with professional riders, and each school has its own safety gear requirements.  I'm going to have to buy some real motorcycle boots for the class offered at Inde.  More shopping.  Blech.

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