Pat & Sandy’s Excellent Adventure – 100th Running of Indy 500

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Our journey began 5/25 on the AirBus to LA and Embassy Suites in time for cocktails and dinner.

The following morning, we arrived at LAX for our nonstop flight to Chicago. The only glitch was United sending texts changing the flight time back and forth three times. Very confusing. Security went smoothly. We picked up our car rental in Chicago and we both noticed the unfriendly employees.2016_indy_michael_jackson

Our first stop was Gary, Indiana at Michael Jackson’s childhood home. Much of the area is boarded up and it seems the town has fallen on very hard times. The Jackson home is well kept with a pretty front yard and fence surrounding the small home. There is a plaque out front and it is easily distinguishable from the rest of the homes in the area. One look at the neighborhood and Pat wanted to just stay in the car with the engine running. Sandy, by far the more adventurous, got out and walked around taking pictures of the home. Pat sitting in the car, with the engine running, kept thinking “Come on Sandy, before we get killed.”

There were plans to stop at one of two places to eat dinner in West Lafayette but gave up after not being able to find the first place and the second looked more like a Purdue University bar. We ended up having dinner at a Steak and Shake and again noticed very unfriendly people. Indiana did not show us Southern Charm. There was a lot of road construction along the main highway which slowed down our travels.

steaknshakeA road hazard and subsequent tire problem necessitated a call to AAA from the Steak and Shake. Luckily they are a 24 hr. restaurant so we felt very safe waiting for help. We finally made it to our hotel in Indianapolis at 2 AM. It was a very long day.

Before we could start our Friday day of fun we took care of the tire issue and then checked into our hotel where we would spend three nights. Our Road Trips Host was also there to give us our tickets and help with any questions. Next stop was the Speedway where we watched some final practice, the Vintage Car Laps and walked through Gasoline Alley which was a car show where people showed off their beautiful classic cars. It seemed like a good day to go through the Hall of Fame Museum which is onsite and very interesting. Penske has a good collection on display and Tony Stewart had his own section. Joey Logano’s car was displayed and many many more.

2016_indy_journeyThere was an afternoon concert with Journey at the Speedway. It was a standing room only event and very hot and very humid. Sandy watched the performance up close and personal and Pat found a place to sit down on the grass while she was still alive and breathing. We were both very surprised at the amount of drinking and that people are allowed to bring in large coolers filled with beer. Dinner at TGI Fridays near our hotel. Loud and filled with kids but food was good.

2016_indy_festival_paradeThe Festival Parade started at noon on Saturday in the downtown area. As luck would have it we parked the car about one block from our front row reserved seats close to the beginning of the parade. We were amazed at our location. Before the parade started a man walked by with a Hinchcliffe hat. Sandy gave him a thumbs up because that was her driver pick for the race. He stopped and started talking to us and said he was “Hinch’s” father. We both said, “Right, show us some ID” which he promptly did. He was very friendly and pointed to his wife. I asked how he felt when his son got the pole for the 500 and he said he almost passed out. The Parade itself was very patriotic and fun to watch – beautiful Corvettes and Camaros, bands, floats, and of course the drivers. It was interesting that the bataans of the marchers were shaped like rifles, I’m assuming in honor of Memorial Day.2016_indy_500_loop

After the parade we headed back to the Speedway and VIP parking which was really nice after walking so far on Friday. The Legends Concert was in the afternoon: Cory Cox at 3:30, Chris Janson at 4:00 and Blake Shelton at 5:00 (1 ½ hrs) This was again standing room event but Pat found something to lean on for the almost 4 hrs. Sandy happily mingled closer to the stage taking pictures. All three singers were great. Also a great people watching experience. Dinner at the Slippery Noodle, a well known restaurant with live jazz. After dinner we walked around a beautiful downtown square with fountains, lights and lit horse drawn carriages.

Sunday was the 100th running of the Indy 500 Race at 12:20.

We had a chartered bus ride to the track with police escort. The traffic was incredible (in a bad way) and we were so happy to be on the bus.

[Video link on YouTube to see the 2013 Indy 500 police escort]

The festivities started at 9:45 with laps by the Festival Princess, older Indy cars, former Indy 500 champions, military in a long line of Silverados, followed by Driver Intros. The call for drivers to start their engines was at 12 with the race starting just after that. We had very good seats in the Paddock Section. It was hot and humid and crowded (a sellout crowd of 350,000+) but somehow still fun.

2016_indy_500_drivers_2 2016_indy_500_drivers_1The beginning of the race was exciting with Sandy’s driver (Hinchcliffe) and Pat’s driver (Hunter-Raey) battling back and forth for first and second place for several laps. A rookie from Nevada City won, which is next to Grass Valley where Pat’s son lives. Our bus took an hour just to get out of the parking lot after the race. It was complete mayhem and we were so happy to let someone else do the driving. It was astonishing to us that people were buying beer on their way out to their cars.

The Indianapolis motorcycle police have beautiful midnight blue Harleys with their names on the tank. We stopped and talked to a Captain who was very nice. They have quite a job dealing with so many people and alcohol and his comment was “We are use to it.”

Dinner – P F Changs near our hotel.

Our drive back to Chicago started early Monday morning.. We stopped in Merrillville at Albanese, home of Gummi Bears. This is a candy lovers paradise. A little girl came in with her family looking bored and then shrieked, “CANDY” It was very cute.

The next stop was our Chicago hotel, Palmer House. This is not an easy city to negotiate and it took a couple of wrong turns to make it to the front of our hotel which is in the midst of the tall buildings. The self parking garage was a block and a half away and our other choice was valet ($75.) Yes, that’s right for one night!

Not wanting to drag our suitcases that far, we wearily gave our car key to the unfriendly valet.

The Dodger/Cubs game at Wrigley Field started at 1:30, and we took the elevated train from just outside our hotel. 2016_indy_500_dodgers_cubsThis was another first for Pat. Being jammed in with thousands of Cub fans is quite the experience. There were a few Dodger shirts to be seen and, even stranger, by us on the train. It was really exciting even though the Dodgers lost. They put on quite the patriotic show. Sandy did another incredible job in reserving our seats. We were in back of home plate. Yes, we did eat Chicago foot longs. Cubs fans do not rush out at game’s end but stand up and sing several songs. It was really memorable and we agree Los Angeles needs more songs along with their dedicated fans.

2016_indy_500_pizzaAfter riding the train back to the hotel, we decided to do a little sight seeing. Millenium Park is a few blocks from our hotel and really quite beautiful at night. Just beyond that was Giordano’s, official pizza of the Cubs, for some Chicago style deep dish pizza. We waited to be seated and then another 45 minutes to prepare our pizza. It is an experience but both of us would have been happy with just one slice. Deep dish is just too much for these California girls.

Chicago was just as tricky finding the freeway to the airport on Tuesday morning. Even returning our rental car had its challenges. The TV news kept saying what a nightmare it was to get through airport security but we were happy to see that it went very smoothly. We had a nonstop return flight to Los Angeles and then a 2 ½ hr wait for the Santa Barbara AirBus to whisk us back to Goleta.

It was a wonderful trip but there really is no place like home.