Some said I was crazy to go to Florida in the middle of the summer: the heat and humidity would be terrible, not to mention the threat of hurricanes. All I thought about was sitting on a beach, storing up sun for the long winter. I was driving with my grandpa and my brother on a three-day road trip to the Sunshine State, but there was one catch: we were stopping at a motorcycle race.
Wauseon, Ohio is not exactly the first place that springs to mind in terms of summer vacations. After 15 hours or so in the car, I was anxious to get out and breathe the fresh air. Instead, however, I opened my door only to be met with the strong, pungent smell of gasoline and exhaust––and leather, lots of leather. Originally I had pictured myself sitting on a soft, grassy knoll, reading my wonderfully entertaining AP US history book under the shade of a large oak tree.
How very wrong I was. We were on a small fairground, and, to my greatest excitement, we were going into the “pits”, which was a lovely name for the space in the middle of the track where the racers are.
Before we entered, we were each required to sign a waiver. I perceived this to be a little sketchy, but gave it no second thought. There were no grassy knolls or oak trees in the pits, just mud and gravel. Discovering this, I looked down and realized that my favorite brown dress was maybe not the most appropriate attire to be wearing in a place dominated by muscle shirts and cut-offs.
Suddenly, a motorcycle sped down the center of the pits, haphazardly dodging the people walking around. It was at this time I realized why I signed that liability waiver. Not wanting to get hit by the racers, we went to explore the most interesting part of the races: the swap meet.
A swap meet is really just an unglorified garage sale, if there is such a thing. Rather “unique” people from all over the country gather to sell old parts and priceless junk. Most of the time, the person selling it has no idea of what it is, much less what it’s worth. There were many amusing things to see, namely people. It was here I befriended a stout red-bearded man with one leg, appropriately named “Pogo”. I also met an older English man with the suaveness (and undeniably cool) accent of James Bond.
At the end of the night, the races began. These being antique motorcycle races, the bikes had to be at least 35 years old, some dating back to 1918. Most of the racers were nearly half-antique themselves. Seasoned men in their 50s, 60s, and even 80s, sped around the track, their long gray ponytails flapping in their wakes. It was a night to remember. It was a night to make young boys want to become old men so they could race. It was a night to make old men want to grow out their hair and mustaches. It was a night to make teenage girls really glad they’re going to Florida.