The Casual Blog

Tag: Road Atlanta

An earthquake, a hurricane, a massage, a yoga lesson, and a haircut

Sunset before Hurricane Irene

We’ve had a couple of unusual disturbances this week. On Tuesday, Raleigh was shaken for a few seconds by an earthquake that was centered in northern Virginia. In my office, it felt at first like heavy equipment was passing by, but it got more intense, and I started to consider evacuating. We seldom have earthquakes in the eastern U.S. We’re used to thinking of the earth as something solid that does not move, and it’s disturbing when it does.

A hurricane named Irene has been heading toward the eastern U.S. for several days, and finally hit the Outer Banks of N.C. this morning. We get hurricanes here from time to time, but this one has caused more than usual worry. In 1996 when Hurricane Fran hit our area, trees snapped in two in my yard, and the storm left us without power for days. Ever since, I’ve taken hurricanes seriously. At the moment, we’re getting light rain and gusty winds.

Meanwhile life goes on, with chores and challenges. This week I was particularly conscious of being part of a pleasing network of humans, including some who helped take good care of me, with some vivid moments of connection.

On Monday, I got over to Hands on Health, where Meredith had agreed to come in on her day off to give me a deep tissue massage. I’d anticipated that all the driving to, from, and at Road Atlanta would leave me with a tight neck and back, which it did, and that Meredith could help, which she did. She was cheerful and chatty, but deadly serious when it came to knotty muscles. There were some intense and difficult moments, but I left feeling wonderful.

On Wednesday, I had my first individual yoga lesson with Suzanne. I’ve taken one or two “early bird” classes a week with her for the last year or so, and have gradually come to really trust her. My main objective in taking an individual lesson was to make sure I had sound mechanics for my head stand and wasn’t about to hurt my neck. I also wanted to understand more about increasing my flexibility. Lately I’ve gone to a few advanced classes, and found them fairly humbling. There are certain things they do that I just can’t do.

Anyway, Suzanne helped me adjust expectations and feel better about where I am, as well as improving in some areas. For head stands, she taught me how to find the top of my head and where my weight needed to be. We did some bending and twisting, and talked about how you can have too much of a good thing. Although it looks good in class to have loose joints, as she does, she noted that looseness brings with it more risk of certain injuries. I also got her guidance on what to do with my mind during savasana. I’ve slowly come to really value yoga’s insistence on relaxation as an integral part of class. At the end of the session, I felt tremendous gratitude, both for Suzanne, and for my good health and well-being.

Because of the Road Atlanta trip, I’d missed my regular monthly haircut with Ann. She invited me to come in after work as her last appointment on Wednesday. Ann’s been cutting hair for me, Sally, and Gabe for many years. It’s always fun seeing her. She likes to talk, and we have great chats about our families, cars, restaurants, travel, and sports. As usual, I left looking better, and smiling.

Driving at Road Atlanta

Clara and friends at Road Atlanta

I had a few butterflies about taking Clara down to Road Atlanta for the Rezoom track event. There is, after all, an element of risk to pushing a car as hard as you can. But at the same time, there is something that felt right about the trip. A Porsche 911S was not created to be mere transportation. It is a sports car.

After a simple breakfast at the Holiday Inn, I was loading Clara when I saw some working-guy types staring at me. My first reaction was to assume they thought I was a twit. Then I realized they were admiring the car. This wasn’t exactly pleasant, but not exactly unpleasant. I wasn’t interested in attracting their attention, but I could understand it. It occurred to me that this is something that very attractive people must deal with: the slightly unsettling attention of strangers.

I had more butterflies when I saw the field, which included some true racing machines, stripped of creature comforts and equipped for massive speed. My instructor, Bryan, had one such: a Miata with everything torn out that didn’t have to do with the business of moving.

Bryan and his Miata

It also had an awesome paint job. Bryan introduced me to his track buddies, all from Jackson, Mississippi, and invited me to hang out at their canopy area.

The track was 2.54 miles — about the same size and shape as VIR, but more difficult. There are big elevation changes, and vertigo-inducing blind curves. Where VIR has fields to run off into if you misjudge a turn, RA has hard walls. Bryan took me as a passenger out as a passenger on the first session, and scared the bejesus out of me. It was a fast, very rough ride. I felt car sick, but managed, barely, to avoid spewing.

The drivers were divided into notice, intermediate, and advanced groups, and each drove 30 minutes per session. As a novice, with an hour between sessions, I looked at the other cars as they prepared to run or ran. I enjoyed talking with Bryan and his friends.

Bryan, Chris, and Snookie

They knew an amazing amount about cars. They must have thought I seemed a bit different, but they were really kind to me, and went out of their way to explain things and be helpful. It was great to hang out with them.

After the first couple of half-hour sessions, I began to get a feel for the track. It demanded total concentration. The senses are overloaded with sensations — screaming engines, rushing edges. There is no room for ordinary thought. Bryan kept coaching me to use more of the track and carry more speed through the turns. Gradually I got faster.

At times I couldn’t stop smiling. There were, however, some harrowing moments. Once I hit the gators at speed coming off the blind turn at number 12, and skidded dangerously. That scared me, and it took a few laps to regroup. As I kept pushing against the limits of the turns, a few times I found them, and barely hung on.

But with each session, my confidence increased, and on the second day I broke the two-minute barrier for a lap — a milestone. As I prepared for the fourth run of the day, Bryan announced I was ready to solo. He asked me not to do anything that would embarrass him. I was really pleased, and I didn’t.