<< Day 27: Resaca to Rock Hill| Day 30: Rock Hill to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina >>
Rock Hill, South Carolina
We stayed for two days with my parents in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They had recently moved here from Virginia Beach, Virginia, where I had spent over half of my childhood years.
While planning this trip, I had researched some possible fun activities to do near Rock Hill. I discovered a nearby racetrack that I thought would be interesting for Sebastian—for the last two years, Sebastian has proclaimed that he wants to be a “race car driver” when he grows up, although he has changed that recently to a “mechanical engineer who designs race cars.”
Lowe’s Speedway (formerly Charlotte Motor Speedway) has NASCAR events and other races during the year. Unfortunately, there were no races being held during our two-day visit. However, the Speedway offered a van tour, called “Feel the Thrill”, which I thought would be a memorable experience for all of us.
My sister Karen and her kids would be joining us. She suggested that we make a full day of the excursion by visiting a drive-through wild-animal park that was not too far from the racetrack. The plan was to visit the animal park in the morning (when the weather would be cooler), have a picnic somewhere along the way, and then take an afternoon tour of the racetrack.
Off we went! Sebastian rode with my dad in Trent’s pickup truck.
The rest of us rode with my sister Karen.
Both the animal park and racetrack were across the state border in North Carolina.
“Welcome to North Carolina!”
After an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrived at the animal park front gates.
The gates were locked. A sign on the front said, “Sundays Open at 1:00 PM.” Today was Sunday. It was 10:00 AM. Oooops!
We could see some camels and other animals beyond the fences.
All of the children had really been looking forward to riding through the park in the back of the pickup. However, we weren’t going to be able to do both the wild animal park and the racetrack in one afternoon, so we opted for the racetrack.
The racetrack was located off of a different highway, which we could get to by cutting east across a large stretch of rural area. We weren’t quite sure of the route to take. My maps were back in the RV. (I am thinking that I should have asked more questions before today’s adventure began!). We decided to just “wing it” by heading in what we hoped was an eastern direction.
The roads were my favorite type—winding two lanes.
After driving for a while, we weren’t quite sure if we were going in the right direction. We didn’t see any freeway signs ahead, and the long skinny road looked like it continued into a never-ending stretch of rural beauty. We pulled over in front of a closed repair shop, hoping that there might be a person around who could give us directions. Nope. There was a stop sign nearby, however.
I ran over and posted myself next to the stop sign. A vehicle approached with an older man driving, and (presumably) his wife riding in the passenger seat. As the car slowed down to stop at the sign, I stepped out from the side of the road and ran over to the driver’s window, saying, “Excuse me! Can you give us directions?” I saw the woman recoil in what looked like fear. After I made rolling down motions with my arm, the man reluctantly rolled down his window about five inches, with his body leaned away from me.
In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the wisest course of action for me—hunting is a popular sport here, and many people carry guns.
I quickly said that I was traveling with my children and parents, gesturing toward our two vehicles nearby, and told him that we were trying to find Interstate 85. After he confirmed that I wasn’t a mad raving lunatic, or that I wasn’t after his money or possessions (Headline: “Nice Couple Robbed After Stopping to Help Distraught Motorist”), he rolled down his window a bit more, and he graciously directed me to the freeway.
We needed to turn around and go down the road from which the couple had just come, and then make a few more turns through a small town. I was very glad that we had asked for directions, as we might have continued wandering along those country roads for quite a while. That wouldn’t have been so bad for me, as I was enjoying the scenery and the company; however, with four children who have already been in the car for almost two hours, and who aren’t exactly excited about miles of green fields with a few cows here and there, we needed to minimize the country sightseeing and get on with the “fun stuff”. Genevieve, however, did look quite cozy snuggled up next to her dad.
We finally arrived at the racetrack and found the ticket office.
The door, however, was locked. Ha! The track office didn’t open until 1:00 PM! We wandered around a bit, hoping to find an open restroom. (All were locked.)
We still had almost two hours to wait. This sign did not encourage us to linger.
We drove off to find a restroom and a spot to have a picnic lunch. The racetrack had a campground for RVs, and the employees generously allowed us to enter and use a few of the picnic tables for free. (Thank you!!!) We feasted on yummy sandwiches and fresh fruit that we had packed this morning, and then headed back to wait another 20 minutes for the ticket office to open.
Outside the main doors, Sebastian grew a new set of arms (with Genevieve’s assistance).
Once inside the ticket office, we finally found the sign-in place for tours (in the rear portion of the gift shop). While waiting for our tour to begin, Sebastian purchased two special race cars for his collection.
We were lucky to get Stacy as our tour guide. She was enthusiastic and very informative.
Here is our van:
Sebastian was ready!
Stacy explained that the racetrack was built in 1959. Lowe’s hardware company purchased the naming rights for 10 years at a cost of $35 million. The initial 10-year period expired last year, and Lowe’s paid $3.5 million for another year. The name could be changed to something different in the next few years, depending upon corporate sponsorship deals.
We entered the track through a long tunnel that cost half a million dollars to create.
Inside the track, we could see the ring of seats all around us.
Many movies and TV commercials are filmed here. A large section of seats was redone last year so that from far away the stands look as if people are sitting in them.
The stands hold 140,000 people, and the infield holds another 20,000. There is a 5-year waiting list for infield tickets.
We drove by the Sprint Cup garage, where the #1 space is reserved for last year’s champion.
The fuel pumps:
We passed the medical building, which has nine doctors on race days.
The special Musco lights have one bulb and mirrors, which reduce the shadows on the racetrack.
Now for the moment we had all been waiting for—the ride around the track itself. Woo hoo!
We could imagine a green flag waving above us!
Sebastian gave a thumbs-up GO!
We traveled comfortably around the 1.5 mile oval track, passing the announcer’s booth.
Stacy explained that cars can generally go 200 miles per hour on the straight portions, and 190 on the banks. The straight parts are banked at 5 degrees, and the curved ends have a bank of 24 degrees that extends 3 stories tall. Stacy said that many people think that the cars stick to the curved banks due to their speed. But then she stopped our van in the middle of the curve (ohhhhhhh!) to show that we would not tumble over sideways without forward momentum. Whew!
As we were going around the track, we noticed the condominiums along one side. Stacy explained that these sell for $500,000 to $700,000; even if you are lucky enough to live there, you still must have a race ticket in order to remain in the apartment on race days. (Those residents must be die-hard race fans!)
We stopped for photos in the Victory Circle. We are all “winners” in this life!
We wandered to the edge of the track and took some more photos.
Before returning to my parents’ home, we stopped by Karen’s vegetable garden to get some items for dinner:
One of my mom’s favorite pastimes is relaxing in her backyard swing. Benjamin, Genevieve and Brandon enjoy swinging too.
My sister Karen and me:
The next day we ventured into downtown Charlotte, where we visited the Discovery Place with my nephew Benjamin.
My brother-in-law Trent installs and secures tall construction cranes. Here is one of his latest projects:
The Discovery Place had many exhibits and activities today relating to the themes of pirates and the circus.
“Weapon Wielding Wild Woman”:
There was a big device that allowed the kids to do flips in the air. Benjamin took a turn first.
Up . . .
. . . up . . .
. . . and away! Benjamin spun around and around!
Next was Genevieve’s turn. She had fun too!
Sebastian was having a great time with the ball machine, turning the handle to make balls travel up a tube and into another chute:
Benjamin experimented with techniques in lifting a quad off of the ground:
Genevieve perfected her balancing act on the high-wire:
In the funny mirrors, my mom turned into the headless wonder:
Genevieve lifted the same weight with various types of levers:
And she was magically transported upwards with an air vacuum on top of this chair:
A wind capsule let people experience strong winds. Here are my dad and Benjamin, with winds at 51.9 miles per hour:
Sebastian was intrigued by the capsule, and he experienced the winds over and over. Here he is with winds at 98.8 miles per hour.
Then he became the star of his own "B" movie, headlining as the “boy fighting the strong winds and having his ear drums burst.”
(We ended the drama when other guests started looking concerned.)
Benjamin mastered the very complex machine that involved using remote hand controls to maneuver a magnetic device with a long arm to pick up a metal coin. Here, Sebastian is watching the machine with the coin, and Benjamin is with the controls in the background (with Ben).
My mom (Sue) and Sebastian sharing a hug during lunch.
Near the Discovery Museum was St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which was built here in 1892.
Here are a few more family photos from our time together.
Me, my mom, and Karen:
Sebastian and Benjamin:
Karen and Genevieve:
<< Day 27: Resaca to Rock Hill| Day 30: Rock Hill to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina >>
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