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Keeping the Alumni in Touch
by Johnnie Farris
July 4, 2003 - Daytona Beach
The Fourth of July of 2003 may not be my most memorable Fourth, but it ranks right up there! Glenn Allen, Layla, Troy, Jerry and I went to Daytona for the Pepsi 400. On arriving at our hotel in New Smyrna Beach (where prices were doubled for the event), I was impressed by the beach, which is really different from our gulf beaches. Cars actually park on the beach; for a fee, of course! We ate some good seafood, did a little sight-seeing, and rested up for the race. We were advised to leave early on Saturday for the race track and told where the best parking lots were located. Ha, ha, ha, ha. We thought we were so smart because we parked, took a shuttle to the race track, and had plenty of time to spare. Sure.
Daytona is quite different from Talladega.. There is a shopping mall just outside the gates, where for about $50, we could have parked our car. But, why we would want to do that when we could get back to the free lot on the free shuttle bus? More about that later.
So now we were hungry, and we didn't want a race track hot dog. So, we put our names on the list at the closest brew-pub. A 2-hour wait, but we still had plenty of time. We finally finished eating, with about 30 minutes to spare before the start of the race. We got into our seats just as the National Anthem was being sung. By the way, the row numbers are not a true indication of how high your seats will be. Our row #15 seats were actually the third row from the bottom, so we didn't have much of a view. But we were at Daytona!
The race was over and we just had to stay in our seats for the fireworks. They were really great. We did the usual "oohs and ahs" then headed for the exit. Bad move. 200,000 others were now headed for the exit. By the time we got to the "cattle stalls" to work our way to the shuttle buses, the line would have stretched all the way back to the track, except that people thought that by pushing forward in bunches, this process would work better. After being packed like sardines for almost 2 hours, we finally got back to the lot and into our car. It took 2 more hours to get back to our hotel, just a few miles away. By now, that $50 parking place seemed like a great idea.
It took a lot longer coming home than going down there. Traffic was a nightmare. By the way, Greg Biffle won that race. We said, "Who? Greg Biffle?" We really did have a good time and we still like to talk about it, but I don't think we'll make that trip again. This year we'll be watching the race on TV and having some good barbecue.
Johnnie Bobo Farris