Saturday, March 27, 2010
When was the last time you thought of those little go karts that buzz around the track, the drivers intent on passing the karts in front of them, with only 4 inches of clearance of the ground?
Around this house, go karts and the race track is the topic of conversation quite often. We volunteer as flag persons in two of the four corners of the local raceway. Our cousin prepares the track by setting up dozens of 'tire walls' to protect the racers and then we show up to organize the walkie talkies, the flags (yellow, green and red) that are held in plastic buckets, and other safety ropes that direct the big vehicles.
The age of the drivers in our club are as young as six-years old to, well, let's say some of the drivers have been grandparents for a decade. (Is that kind enough???) Yes, one fellow is eighty-eight!
As organizers and volunteers, we attempt to have fans park their cars away from the go kart track. It is a safety precaution because little karts can be driven under a truck or SUV and kill the kart racer. The tire walls that I mentioned are an attempt to keep kart drivers on the track and away from light standards and poles.
To put this into context, these are not the go karts you might take your family to on a Saturday night at an amusement park. Our club races national and international standards and are capable of speeds close to 70 miles a hour!
As a volunteer, the hours sometimes are very wearing (on me) physically. I try to focus on the two other flag men that I am able to see. I try to anticipate problems and kart wrecks so that I can alert other drivers by throwing a cautionary flag. The wind, rain and sun take their toll on me even though I try to dress in layers.
I drink my water. I wear a hat, earplugs and gloves. Long pants and long sleeves are a must even in the hottest weather. (Did I mention that we run ten months a year???) My pockets have a granola bar, lip balm and anything else I can think of because I often feel as if I am in survival mode.
Our track is located in a low area surrounded by many hills and it is windy all the time. I stand out in the open as if I am 'waiting for a bus' that takes 4 hours (and never arrives.) There is no place to sit, nothing to lean on and exposure (hyperthermia) is often my concern.
Why do we do it? Volunteering has its rewards...
Even though we receive no pay, we try to tap into the excitement of the drivers. The young people are learning how to drive and they have much to realize about the weight and power potential of their karts. The adult drivers are developing strategies to drive safely and try to pass their opponents. I can see improved driving skills week in and week out.
It feels good to help out an organization. I get to watch others have fun. I get an opportunity to wave at other buddies around the track. I like the arbutus trees and rock formations of my region and I look around me between the races.
Yes, it may be incredibly loud and very stinky with exhaust. The gravel of the track is blown into my face by the passing of the vehicles. There is little opportunity for a bathroom break and the food & beverages are nasty. And yet, the weekend is here and we will be there---- again.