Monday, March 31, 2008

Spring Drag Race

I just walked around Houston Raceway Park and boy are my arms tired! Seriously, my arms are totally worn out from hobbling around the track all weekend. I was glad that they had carts to shuttle people from the handicapped parking area to the track (even though it's not really far), but they obviously weren't there to take me around the pits. And while I like sportsman racing enough, I wasn't about to just sit in my seat the whole time. When I got to the track about 1 after checking into my motel and getting lunch, the guy in the handicapped lot said to wait a minute and he'd get a cart over. I was just going to walk but I figured what the heck, I'd take a ride. Since the other passengers were going to the spectator side, I got off just inside the gate near the tower. It wasn't really far, but by the time I got to the grandstand, I was already tired and sweating and just sat down in the first place that was free, nowhere near my actual assigned seat. The stands weren't very full at that point, since pro qualifying hadn't started, but it filled up more and more as qualifying went on. By the time nitro qualifying started, it was clear I was in someone's seat, but nobody really seemed to mind, and nobody even tried to get by me, they just climbed around on another row. After the first session, I went for a walk through the nitro pits before going to my assigned seat. By the time I sat down, my hat was soaked with sweat, but after a while sitting there in the breeze I was slightly chilled. I didn't really have any problems walking in the pits, but the stands were a bit of a challenge, I almost tripped a couple times on the stairs, and the aluminum was extremely slippery when wet, like from a spilled coke.
As I was leaving the stands, one of the handicapped carts was just sitting there, so I jumped on for a ride back to the parking area. Traffic leaving wasn't too bad. I had dinner at the Outback, but there weren't as many racers as I've sometimes seen there. Other than Bob Gilbertson and other various crew people, the patrons didn't look like they were necessarily even race fans. I got to my motel, Travelodge Suites Channelview, about 10 and saw my room for the first time (although I had already checked in, it wasn't ready). The overall feel was of being old and run down. There was a large hole in the comforter. There was a big spot on the carpet. The most horrifying, plainly indicating its uncleanliness, was a coffee straw on the floor. I saw hairs in the bathtub, but felt too unstable to take a shower and too dirty not to bathe. I rinsed the tub out before taking a hot bath. The next morning, after checking out and dismissing their breakfast offering, I discovered that the door lock wasn't working properly and had stayed unlocked. I told the guy at the desk, who said he'd have it looked at. I managed to get the door to lock before I left, but was very unhappy to get back that evening to it being unlocked. If I hadn't been so exhausted at that time (and there were any vacancies in the area), I would have demanded my money back and gone elsewhere. When I checked out Sunday morning, I told the guy working then about the door and he said of the other clerk "yeah, he's a lazy fuck."
Leaving the motel Monday I got a McGriddle and a Dr Pepper at the McDonald's drive-through across the highway and headed to the track. There was some traffic once I got off of the new toll road, but it wasn't too bad and gave me a few minutes to eat my breakfast. I got a ride all the way to the grandstand, but since it was still a while before pro qualifying, I went for a stroll through the pro stock pits. I also went back to the pro stock motorcycle pits, which, like previous years (but not last year), were in their own area near the finish line. Unfortunately after I made a pass through I found my options to get back to the grandstands was either to go through a fence or go back through the pits, in the opposite direction I wanted to go. I decided against trying to negotiate the fence and ditch beyond, but kept hoping someone would offer me a ride. I made it back to my seat and settled in for a while. I only left between third and fourth sessions to go to the bathroom and get lunch. After the end of pro qualifying, I went for another stroll through the nitro pits, then to the Nitro Mall to get a t-shirt I decided I wanted. I thought about just heading to my car, but really wanted a drink, so I headed to the designated handicapped pickup area. After getting someone to call for a pickup and waiting about 20 minutes, I just walked. When I got back to the parking area, the coordinator (or whatever) apologized and said the one cart ran out of gas and the other was busy. I had dinner at Chili's, where the only people who were obviously associated were definitely not crew people, and went back to the motel, took a bath and passed out in front of the TV.
Sunday, hoping to avoid the terrible traffic I've sometimes encountered in the past, I set the alarm for 6. I got ready, checked out, picked up some breakfast, and went to the track. There was no traffic at that time, so I parked and ate my breakfast before getting a ride to the pits. Since it was before 7:30 and they hadn't even opened the spectator gates, the teams were just starting to get things out and start preparations. I just wandered until the only thing I wanted to do was to sit down, but I did buy a pair of ear muffs with an AM/FM radio built in so I could actually hear the track announcer. I got to my seat at about 9:30 and stayed there until after the second round of pro eliminations, when I went to get some food and a drink. There was no aerial component to the opening ceremonies, possibly due to the heavy overcast and winds. Usually there is a parachutist and sometimes there is some sort of flyover. After the semifinals I went to the nitro pits again, but as expected they were all either mobbed or nearly dormant. At the end of the race I was expecting the winners circle ceremony to be near the starting line and I wouldn't have to go all the way around the tower, but the held it in the staging lanes like they did last year (which they had to do because sportsman racing was still going on). I sort of loitered under the tower until the pro winners' cars arrived and I got a chance to check them out up close and ask the crews some questions. I didn't stay long, and about 4:30 I hobbled back to my car. I grabbed a Full Throttle drink that was being handed out, but it turned out to be sugar-free and more disgusting than a regular energy drink and only managed to drink half of it. I got home, took a bath, and went to sleep exhausted.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


So on the 9th, I decided to go out for dinner and then downtown. Having seen my family off the previous day, I wanted to get out. SXSW interactive was going on and I eventually met up with the same old friend who inspired me to start this blog a year ago.
I woke up the next morning and my left ankle hurt. Figuring it was just a sprain, I wasn't too worried but planned on going to my doctor to get it checked out. I called up a coworker who has been helpful in the past and lives in my general area. He was busy that morning, but not all day. I called another coworker, but it turns out she was out on vacation. I knew I couldn't drive myself in my manual transmission car, so I just laid around and hopped whenever I wanted to go anywhere. I put ice on the ankle and it helped, so I figured it was a sprain at worst. At about 2pm Raney called and said he was free, did I still need a ride. I called my doctor's office and got an appointment to see the Physician's Assistant. When we got to the office, I hopped all the way to the sign-in counter. When the called me back, fortunately they had a wheelchair for me to ride in. They took x-rays first, and when the PA came in with them it was quite obvious my ankle was broken, tibia and fibula. She immediately started calling to find an orthopedist who could take me and my insurance. Raney took me straight from my regular doctor to the orthopedist's. He pretty much looked at the x-ray and said he'd operate the next day, using some screws and a plate to perform "reduction with fixation." He kept referring to "lateral malleolus" and "medial malleolus" as if I knew what he was talking about rather than just saying outside/inside or fibula/tibia. He put on a plaster splint (which was nice and warm from the exothermic reaction) and sent me home with a prescription for pain pills. Raney tried to get crutches at the pharmacy, but they didn't have any in my size, so I had to hop around again that evening.
Tuesday morning Raney gave me a ride to the hospital and waited until they admitted me about 8am. They took me to the prep room, where I had to strip and put on a gown. There wasn't much activity for quite a while after that, every once in a while someone would come and do something with my charts or whatever. I was kind of surprised when they stuck me for the IV that they first gave me a little shot of lidocane before the actual needle- removing the tape they put over it the next day hurt more than the needle stick would have. I killed time by reading the newspaper I'd brought with me. About 10am the action started- I met the anesthesiologist, the OR nurse, the intern before the doctor came in and they wheeled me to the OR. The last thing I remember before falling asleep was being moved from the gurney to the operating table. The next thing I knew I woke up in the recovery room at noon, with my leg in a plaster splint similar to the previous one. I immediately felt clear-headed and as though I'd just had a great night's sleep. Once they noticed I was reading the paper, they decided I was ready to go to my room. The room was really nice- private, looked kind of like a decent hotel and had trees outside for a pleasant view. I spent the afternoon watching TV and reading the newspaper and my book, Kerouac's "Dharma Bums," in bed except for when the physical therapist brought crutches and gave me instruction on their use. I fell asleep about 10:30 and was awoken about midnight to take my vitals. I was awake for a while, then got some more sleep before waking up for good about 5am. Not too long after that, people started coming in for blood work, vitals, etc, etc. The doctor stopped in to say it went well and that my fibula had actually broken into three pieces. At 9 they started to get the discharge papers together, and Raney took me home again about 9:30.
I spent most of Wednesday through Saturday on my couch with my leg propped up on pillows. Every once in a while I hobbled up the stairs for the bathroom and to check my email. I ventured out to get my mail and newspaper every day, but otherwise didn't move around much. I got phone calls from my family, napped, but mostly watched TV. Eventually I got to where I only had one page worth of shows on my DVR and had gotten pretty stir crazy. Sunday my friend Jimmy picked me up and brought me over to his house for a barbecue for his future daughter-in-law's birthday.
Ankle HardwareMonday morning I got a ride with a coworker who lives just up the street from me. I was glad to get out of the house, even if it was to go to the office. It was a tiring day for me and I wasn't sorry my ride had to leave on the early side. He gave me a ride the rest of the week until I had Good Friday and the weekend to again lie around doing nothing. Monday morning (again having the day off by virtue of working for a British company) I got a ride to my doctor's. The intern removed the splint (without cutting it), dressing and staples (some of which hurt slightly). The wound was really gross, some bruising on the heel, swelling, and some blood around the incisions. Then I got an x-ray to check on how it was going, then a little later the doctor came, looked things over before putting on a simple bandage and getting me into a boot-type cast. He gave me instructions, recommendations, etc and a prescription to get a handicapped placard. He didn't exactly recommend driving my car, but didn't say I couldn't, so after I was home for a little while I figured I would try it out. I didn't have much trouble, so I decided to go have lunch at Chuy's. From there I went to the county offices to get my placard, and stopped at the grocery store for a couple things before getting home. Once I did get home I was exhausted and didn't even go out to get my mail. Tuesday through today I've operated somewhat like normal, driving to/from work and to lunch, but as I suspected traffic really sucks. So far I've found that leaving at 6:45 traffic is ok, but sucks if I leave after 7:30. Going home, 4:30 is about the latest I can leave before traffic starts building.
I'm kind of concerned about the traffic at the drag race this weekend. Friday won't be bad, Saturday shouldn't be bad, but Sunday could really suck. I'm going to plan on heading to the track about 7am.