Sunday, June 09, 2013

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The S-Curves: RaceDay Recipe: Quick Quesadillas: What a beautiful race day!  I'm almost happy the Nationwide Series was rained out last night, so I have Iowa keeping me entertained thi...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Visiting NASCAR Tracks: Martinsville Speedway

The little track that doesn't seem to know itself:

There's no towering stands to be seen from the local roads.  Nor is there a massive building housing administration and a shiny gift shop.  Occasionally you'll spy signs by empty fields specifying parking lots.  But really, upon arrival you just don't believe this is the place. 

Indeed, even those working the event are continually surprised that the camping lot is filled with NASCAR fans from the Northeast and Canada.  Why would anybody travel days to find this tiny town and tiny track in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains?  Why?

History holds all the secrets.  The oldest track on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway has hosted Sprint Cup races over more years than any other.  When we speak of Hall of Fame racers, this 1/2 mile paperclip will always feature in their achievements. 

It isn't fast.  Cars qualify under 100 mph.  There are no high banks, wide racing surfaces or even a roomy pit road.  The garage remains a shed incapable of housing all 43 teams. 

And yet, we know we are somewhere special.  The legendary hot dogs is still a reasonable $2.  And yes, they are very snackable.  The track has actually widened the seats for their fans.  There is not a bad seat in the house. Maybe we don't see wrought iron fences, but there is a sense of comfort amidst the teams.  NASCAR likes returning to the paperclip.

And Martinsville clearly has pride in welcoming the circus.  As we wandered the empty facility on Wednesday, everything was being cleaned.  The streets, the seats, the kitchens...everything.  Even the guy driving the maintenance vehicle down the train tracks waved at the few fans wandering around.

In short, we like it here.  Racing is part of the place.  It's a bone deep feeling.  Sort of like a living happy memory.

In a few minutes, we're packing up and heading over for an afternoon of truck racing.  The sun is shining.  The campground is crowded. And I can tell you it's going to be a great day.

Martinsville, a bit of hidden NASCAR history.  A place worth finding.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

On the Road Again: Martinsville, VA

We've been to a few tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit in our travels. Martinsville, VA is just the latest stop on the tour. 

Now, we've been to some pretty out of the way places before.  Pocono Raceway is down a long narrow road in between nowhere and nothing. We did our best to find stuff to do during our week in Thunderstorm Alley, beyond duck and cover, but did not succeed too well.  However, I believe Martinsville may have trumped the roval's rural card.

We turned left at Roanoke.  More quickly than you might believe, we left behind most signs of current civilization.  Before you knew it, instead of blue signs claiming we'd find a McDonald's at the next exit, we now passed signs every quarter mile warning us to watch for turning traffic.  220 is a winding, up and down road that climbs hill and hill.  Houses perch on the mountainsides. The remnants of last year's kudzu really does look like it's about to take over the rest the world.

And nothing much more. Except for the roadside signs telling you where you can find this mile's church.  We're definitely in the Bible Belt.

After an hour, at which point you're convinced you haven't been this far removed from an interstate in your life, our GPS told us to take a left and there we are.  A track in the middle of nowhere.  More farms, train tracks, a minor selection of stores nearby, but nothing to indicate the area is capable of supporting the deluge of a Sprint Cup race twice a year.

However, unlike our visit to Bristol last year, Martinsville does not look quite so on the edge of abject poverty.  Most homes are neatly maintained, and the downtown area is clearly benefitting from some local Commerce Chapter.  Yes, there're grain elevators and lots of fields.  But this town is not about to vanish.  You might expect to see snapshots of local scenery on postcards of back road America.

And food?  Well, just do a little research.  We did.  Race fans suggested a place called "The Checkered Pig" for great BBQ.  We found it today.  The parking lot met my criteria of being crowded at lunch hour.  And most of the plates in the lot were local--not indicating the visiting track people were just going there for convenience.  The sign inside said, "Seat Yourself."  Except we couldn't.  Every table was packed with loud, chattering customers.  Another couple stood in front of us waiting for the "seat yourself" opportunity.

Now, up North this would have most likely devolved into a run for it moment.  Strangers elbowing their way to the next vacant spot.  But not here.  Lively and aware wait staff kept an eye at the line at the door and politely directed us to the next empty seat.  We still had to wait for the table to be bussed, but it all happened pretty quickly.

And the food...simple and tasty.  $7 bought me pulled pork, fries, hush puppies, cole slaw and macaroni salad.  We spent a little bit of time taste testing the selection of BBQ sauces left on the table (all house specials) and settled on the Medium.  A thinner sauce with an apple cider vinegar that gives it its sweet and sour base.  We both cleared our plates and ordered desserts.  Mine a blackberry cobbler and Rich a banana pudding "right out of the oven."

Good homestyle food.  We've a bottle of the sauce to experiment with back home.

Now, on to weather.  We're 700 miles south of home.  It's April.  I have seen a few spring blooms in the area.  But at this very minute?  It is snowing.  Yep.  We drove south so we could experience more snow.  Lucky us.  The weathermen insist that come Saturday, we'll be down to t-shirts and using sunblock.  Uh huh.  We'll see.

Tomorrow, I'll be back with some observations on the actual track.  Although I'm hoping I won't have time to write, because the sun will be shining.  I am hoping.

Until next time... :)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

On the Road Again: The Trials of the Vacation Pixies

Have you ever noticed?  When you go on a trip, there will be some kind of non-vacation fun disaster associated with it.  It happens every time.  For us, there have been tornados, hurricanes, lightning strikes, floods, flat tires, failed RV batteries, blistering heat, unexpected name it.  And yet, year after year we do it anyway.  Pack up and head for the hills, or in my case, a track.

This year proved no difference.  Not 90 miles from home, the truck made this funny squealing noise.  Both of us looked at the dashboard and the worry worm started tightening our stomachs.  The noise disappeared equally quickly.  We sighed in relief.  And then it came back.  A squeal from somewhere beyond the firewall followed by a distant, "Pop."

We then discovered we had no power steering, no power assist for the brakes, idiot lights flashed, no fans.  ACK!  We pulled over and put up the hood.  The serpentine belt failed, due to a frozen pulley.  This we haven't experienced before--being stuck on the interstate and unable to fix the problem by ourselves.  We clearly needed a tow truck...for a pickup pulling a fifth wheel.  ACK!

Now, we can be cheap at times.  We have always said we weren't going to pay for AAA because we'd never use it.  We said the same thing for Good Sam's (the RV equivalent of the car rescue insurance.)  Guess who I called?  Good Sam's.  Who I don't have an account with.  But the nice lady on the phone still hunted down a truck stop nearby who could fix our truck and the number for the tow company that could get us there.

Meanwhile, we are convinced that our day is ruined.  We're not going to get the part in time. If we leave the trailer on the highway, somebody will steal it. We'll never make it to our campground tonight.  In short, the vacation is already shot.  Amazing how quickly your day goes down the tubes. 

But wait.  Not only was there an incredibly helpful person from Good Sam's (who I didn't even pay to be nice,) the tow truck driver from Sturbridge Towing directed us to call a friend or family member with a AAA card so we wouldn't get charged for the tow.  He gave us tips on how to deal with getting the truck fixed.  In short, he was much more helpful and punctual than I expected.  He dropped us at the truck stop within an hour of our disaster.  You know, the day is improving.

New England Truck Stop is not like the Pilots or T/A stops we visit while on the road.  No.  This place belonged to another time.  It reminded me a bit of the diner the truckers stopped to eat at in Nebraska.  A young man made multiple calls to find the parts, got them delivered within an hour and called a mechanic to come in special to get the belt and pulley replaced.  All this after the original statement that he probably couldn't look at the truck until later that night.

3 hours after the detonation of our vacation, we were back on the road. Fixed and ready to go for a price tag far below what we would've paid back at home.  We still made it to our campground by 9pm and back on the road the following morning--where we are now enjoying the scenery of Pennsylvania with NO TRAFFIC.

Life is pretty good. I'm extremely grateful today for the kindness of strangers and you can bet we will be getting a Good Sam's membership.  It already paid us back in gold.

Stay tuned for more travel blogs this week. :)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Gifts of Mothers

 Welcome Spring!

Despite some white stuff falling on our neighborhood on Thursday, the calendar and the sun tell us that Winter has finally loosened its grip on the Northeast.  It is time for warmer, greener times.

Feeling a little bit of the spring fever today, with Mother Nature heating us up with a balmy 45F outside, I grabbed the rake to unveil some of the living things hiding beneath the autumn's pile of leaves.

In the corner by the porch sits my mahonia, a gift from my mother-in-law.  Unlike the rest of the yard, it never truly loses all its color.  Just turns dark purple in the cold of the winter.  The sun isn't strong enough yet to bring out its glossy bright green leaves.

In front of it, in my flower bed that will vanish beneath a wave of weeds by late summer, sits a wealth of other living and green perennials--many of which came as gifts from both my Moms. Jonquils, pachysandra, daylilies and even the clematis were all eager to see the sun as I raked off the winter.

The baby maple trees haven't quite got their juices flowing yet.  I ruthlessly yanked a forest of them out before they could.

And then finally in another bed I spied a flash of yellow:

 The very first croci!  Planted amidst the gray, dry peppermint stalks, sprouting tulips and aromatic thyme.  I didn't mind raking up that plot one little bit.

I work and decide I am grateful for the Sun, the warmth, the hint of new life and the generosity of close relatives.

But perhaps most of all, I am thankful that when I was a little little girl, Mom handed me some hollyhock and carrot seeds and showed me the simple joy in touching the Earth.

What beautiful things we can all do when we work with the magic that is all around us.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Things that Fascinate

The day is old, but it's not quite time for bed.  I surf the TV channels and find nothing.  I switch to my DVR...ah, here we are.  A collection of some of my favorite movies of all time.  Tonight I press "Start" on "The Lion in Winter."

This is the good stuff.  Kings and queens and politics and treachery and passion and...

If you ever wondered what sets my imagination free, it is watching films with the depth and smarts of this 1968 gem.

I don't suppose I shall ever manage to pen such stirring monologues.  Nor shall I cast the timeless Kate Hepburn as one of my heroines.  I dare not try to step on such toes.

Instead, my muse begins to think about what else may have happened behind the storied walls of the castle.

And so we begin again.

You can find my latest exploration into royalty in "The Heart of the Dragon."  Now available for your ereader!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sneak Peak Sunday: The Heart of the Dragon by S.D. Grady

From my current release: The Heart of the Dragon

Pietro crowded her against the high wall. “Feeling a little braver, my little one?”  She shivered as his rough hand held her neck. His thumb ran up and down her throat in thrilling small circles. She frowned.  The spark of humor had vanished. He watched her. Severe. Angry. Hurt?  Even as she had become more comfortable in his presence, there were still moments when she wondered what he was truly thinking.  She placed her hand over his and offered a shy smile. “Can I take a bath?”
That got him to smile again. “Can I join you?”

Available in ebook at Purple Sword Publications and All Romance eBooks


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