Aloha! My name is John and this is my first post on Dadtography.com.
I love travel and vacationing and I love IndyCar racing. I have been fortunate enough to do some really great vacationing in the past but, I have never been able to get to an IndyCar race. It always seemed impossible to work things out and so it became more of a bucket-list event. Plus, it’s difficult to vacation when you are unemployed, almost forty, and a recent first-time father of two kids now under two years old. However, I said it was difficult, not impossible.
With little effort, my scenario quickly turned into two guys and one car on a 900+ mile journey to the biggest motorsports race in the world… THE INDIANPOLIS 500! All this, mind you, on a rather “travel-size” budget.
Prior to the trip I read a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. It went a little something like this:
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
This got me thinking about how we could streamline our expenditures to make this trip happen. To begin, let me say that this was the first time I have traveled in this fashion (with only slight planning involved). We only decided a few weeks out we were even going to attempt to go, and with cash in limited supply, we had to come up with creative ways to make it happen. If the conditions are good, I’m sure anyone can do this and with more planning, even the better.
Road Trip Traveling When Cash is in Short Supply
As a car enthusiast and an IndyCar fan, I really wanted to go to the Indy 500. However, to do so, a couple things had to happen. First, I needed permission from my wife to get away for a few days. I know that sounds funny but that’s how we roll in my family. I am humble enough to ask and she was perfect enough to say it was fine. After all, she was going to be taking care of two young children by herself. It was the least I could do to run it by her first. Couldn’t ask for a better woman.
Second, I needed someone else to go with me as I really didn’t want to make the trek from Orlando, Florida to Indianapolis, Indiana all by my lonesome. So, I asked my good friend, Dan (the creator/owner of Dadtography.com) if he would be interested in joining me. It took very little work to get him excited to see the most sought-after race on the IndyCar circuit. After our wives agreed to our “Man-cation”, all that stopped us was the third thing…money for food, gas, and sleeping arrangements. Simple, right? Well…
Being unemployed and a stay-at-home father, money didn’t just magically drop on my lap. So I had to find a way to make some extra cash. In my case, that was via pressure washing a fence for someone. This was probably the most difficult and tasking aspect of my journey. But, I did the work and got the cash to go. I already knew the ticket for the race was $40.
I wasn’t afraid to put in a little effort to make the trip happen.
Documenting the Journey to Indianapolis
To help remember the event, Dan and I decided we wanted to photograph much of the trip. We have been avid, amateur photographers for a while. However, because of his wealth of knowledge, Dan has always been my “go-to” person for photography related questions. Since Dan has a plethora of some really great Samsung camera equipment, we decided we would put it to use on this trip.
So we plotted our driving directions and thought we would try to see and photograph a couple things along the way. Dan used his Samsung NX1 and, where I typically shoot a Canon Rebel XTi, I was “talked into” using his Samsung NX30, which was definitely more user friendly and took far clearer images, in my opinion.
First Stop, Atlanta, GA and My First MLB Game
While we didn’t have a budget to support doing too much, stopping to see a couple photogenic spots sounded like more fun and would give us a chance to get out and stretch our legs a bit. Not everything on a road trip has to cost money, right?
I knew we would be headed through Atlanta, Georgia on the way up and happen to have a friend, Phil, who lives just outside Atlanta. I have known him since I was four years old and I only see him about once a year. So he was happy to let us stay at his house to save a few bucks on a hotel. It was really great to see him and his family. Since we saved money staying at his house, it afforded us a little more cash to do something else. So we went to an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field. Naturally, ticket prices varied on seat location. We could have spent a couple hundred bucks to sit behind home plate, but we opted to sit in left field territory, so our tickets only cost like $20.
This was my first time ever going to a Major League Baseball (MLB) game and I have to say it was awesome! I am typically not a big baseball fan however, being at the game, versus watching it on TV, makes all the difference. From the crack of the bat to the smell of the hotdogs, I was sold on going to MLB games and look forward to going again. Besides, it still is America’s favorite past time, right?
Next Stop, Chattanooga, TN & Rock City
After the game, we all headed back to my Phil’s house for a free, good night sleep. We got up early and decided to hit our next destination fairly early. So we grabbed the GPS and punched in “Rock City, Chattanooga, Tennessee!”
At just about 2 hours from Atlanta, we arrived at in downtown Chattanooga around 9:30 am. We were pretty hungry and stopped at a restaurant called the Maple Street Biscuit Company. It’s a small chain that was about to open their 7th location at that time. The people there were great and gave us a tour of the facility. Their downtown Chattanooga location was very quaint and offered impeccable service. Our breakfast was delicious and I highly recommend ordering “The Five”. It’s amazing. You’ll see.
After breakfast we made a quick drive to Rock City. The admission there was only $20, which wasn’t bad considering all the photo opportunities it offers. If you aren’t familiar with what Rock City is, well, then you’ve probably never driven on I-75. You’ve seen the billboards, right? They’re famous for them, in fact. Rock City is an impressive bunch of rock formations that… nevermind, it’s better that you just see the pics for yourself. They will tell you much more than I ever could.
Rock City Tennessee Samsung NX30 Gallery
Indianapolis, Here We Come
After seeing Rock City, we got in the car and made the rest of the day’s drive finishing the rest of our trek to Indianapolis, Indiana. We arrived just after dinner time. Did we stay at a hotel? No. This was another situation that with a little planning (and the right conditions) we were able to stay in Indianapolis for free. Luckily, I have an aunt who lives just outside Indianapolis. She was more than happy to have us stay with her for the night. Again, just one phone call and we saved what would likely have been about $150 – $200 for one room. Also, it would have been very difficult to secure a room on race weekend. We would probably have had to have stayed pretty far outside the city as the race is a huge event in Indianapolis.
Staying with my aunt was another great choice because, outside of saving money, I got to see some relatives (aunt, cousins, 2nd cousins) that I really only see about once every three years or so. That really helped make this trip that much better. Plus, in talking with my aunt about our desire to see the race, I learned that, after he retired, my uncle used to work with one of the racing teams and helped keep track of the drivers lap times. So we got to see all his racing memorabilia. It was awesome and a good way to amplify our excitement for race day.
It’s Race Day in Indy!
The following morning we woke up early. It was race day and all the TV stations were reporting the recent events taking place at the “Brickyard” (the Indianapolis Motor Speedway). Parades, concerts, discussion panels, and meet-n-greets have been going on for a few days now.
My cousin’s husband called about 8 am and said that, despite the race not starting until noon, we should get to the track immediately as it was getting busy. We took his advice and his back-road driving directions and got there quickly. We parked about one mile away and walked the rest. All the nearby neighborhoods were renting their lawns as parking lots for $5 – 20 depending on how close they lived to the track. We paid $5 and walked a healthy distance. But then we arrived. And I have to say, standing in front of the Brickyard, home to the biggest race in the history of motorsports, was incredible! The excitement was in the air. The fans came in droves and flooded the sidewalks and entryways. It is IndyCar mania and we were loving it!
We found a couple souvenir shops and bought some ear plugs and t-shirts to remember our journey. Afterwards, we located our seats and got comfortable, in the shade. I forgot to mention, because we saved money in other areas of the trip, we were able to upgrade our seats from the $40, sitting in the sun seats, to the $100, relaxing in the cool shade, seats that were between turn #4 and the finish line! Life is good! Sitting there you can see how massive the 2.5 mile track actually is. The stadium seats 250,000 people with the infield providing room for an additional 50,000 people. That’s a possible 300,000 people at one event! Looking at the massive crowd it seemed like a “full house”.
My Indy 500 Samsung NX30 Photo Gallery
When the race started, it seemed like a dream. But it wasn’t’. It was real. Which meant only one thing, I was living the dream. I was there. Watching 33 drivers, who all want the coveted win, race around the 2.5 mile track in just about 40 seconds at speeds around 226 miles per hour. The roar of the cars speeding around the track was equally as impressive as the sight of them fly around the brickyard. As an admitted Star Wars geek, seeing the cars fly around the track reminded me of the Boonta Eve Classic pod race (like I said, I’m a Star Wars geek). After all, that’s the only things I have ever seen that looks as fast. After a few laps it became apparent that the ear plugs were quite necessary. Seeing and hearing that in person definitely gave me a new appreciation for the level at which these cars perform.
As the race came to a close and driver Juan Pablo Montoya won the 99th running of the Indy 500, we were a bit tired from a day of excitement and ready for dinner. As we walked back to the car, the streets surrounding the speedway were shut down with traffic only leading away from the track. Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to their cars, all pretty much exhausted as we were.
From Indy to Corbin, KY & Cumberland Falls
Once we got back on the road we made a mad dash for our next destination in Corbin, Kentucky, to visit Cumberland Falls. At that time, we didn’t have a place to stay for the night but we kept on driving to get within a closer proximity to the falls. About 3 hours prior to our arrival, I received a call from my uncle stating we could stay the night at my grandmother’s old house in Stearns, Kentucky. The house is located deep in the Appalachian Mountains, specifically on Rattlesnake Ridge. Which is only about a 30 – 40 minute drive from the falls. Great another free stay!
We arrived at the house about 11pm and stayed awake talking to my relatives for a bit. Again, this was another irreplaceable moment for me as I rarely get to see them. So it was nice to talk and relax with them.
The next morning we woke up and Dan went on a little mini excursion to snap a few pics around the house and barn. Once finished, we had breakfast next door, at my uncle’s house. My aunt was cooking up a wonderful, very southern breakfast (country fried chicken, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits-n-gravy, etc). You can get great hospitality at some hotels, but nothing beats family. And my auntie would hear nothing of me paying her for the breakfast. Hopefully I get to return the favor some day.
So we said goodbye and made our way to Cumberland Falls. At 68 feet high, Cumberland falls is actually a fairly big waterfall, often being referred to as the “Niagara of the South.” On clear nights under a full moon, it was one of 4 waterfalls in the world where you can see a lunar rainbow, or moonbow, created by the falls mist. Also, there is no admission to the park! It was a day with perfect weather so we took lots of pictures here.
Passing Through Atlanta, on a Budget
From the falls we now headed back towards Atlanta. Per my friend Phil’s kind offer, we were able to get yet another free night’s rest. Unfortunately, we hit a few storms which really slowed traffic on the interstate so we didn’t arrive there until about 9pm.
The next morning was the first official work day after the Memorial Day weekend, so we got on the road as soon as possible to try and avoid the notorious downtown Atlanta morning commute. For the most part, we by-passed the traffic and made it home in decent time.
As we concluded our road trip of fast cars, friends, and family, I look back at all the things we had done and seen; the MLB game in Atlanta, Rock City in Chattanooga, the Indy 500, and Cumberland Falls. All that while visiting family and friends.
In the beginning, I thought I would not be able to afford the trip. As it turns out, with a little planning, a few phone calls and Google/Google Maps, we were able to do and see way more than I previously thought. I believe Eleanor Roosevelt was correct when she said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” This mindset led me to complete a “bucket-list” item that I probably would not have otherwise done.
Thanks Eleanor, I owe you one.
What do you think? You up for a change or is planning like that already something you do? Leave your comments, I would love to hear them.
Thanks for reading – JD Moore