A Simple Running Log

November 15, 2016

Phoenix International Raceway trip

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 6:08 pm

We had a successful trip to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend — 13 NASCAR tracks down, 10 to go!

Friday morning, Clark and I picked up Julie, and we all met Mike at BWI for the flight to Phoenix. The trip was fine and Julie liked her first flying experience.

We landed in Phoenix just after 1 p.m. their time, got our bags, took a shuttle to the rental car facility and were soon on our way in a Nissan Altima. The hotel we’d booked was a short drive away.

After getting our stuff in the hotel, we walked downtown to find something to eat. I’d found a pub online that looked good, but when we got to the intersection where it was supposed to be, it was nowhere to be found. That was when we learned something useful — Phoenix’s streets are numbered as streets on one side of Central Avenue and as avenues on the other. Meaning, for instance, there’s a 5th Street and a 5th Avenue pretty close to each other, which can be confusing. This is important later.

Anyway, we finally found the Kettle Black Kitchen and Pub and had a late lunch/early dinner (the time change, as always, had us all messed up) and some beers.

Our next stop was Angels Trumpet Ale House, which had a huge draft beer selection.


After a few beers there, we headed to the next stop on Clark’s list, The Lost Leaf. We weren’t there very long when Mike, Julie and I decided we’d had enough and were ready to go back to the hotel. We got an Uber, but Clark decided to stay out by himself. I knew it was a bad idea to leave him out alone, but I was drunk and exhausted and didn’t feel like trying to convince him to go with us, so we left him.

A little before 2 a.m., I woke up and realized Clark wasn’t there. I texted him to see if he was OK. No response. I called him but it went straight to voicemail. Great, his phone was dead, and he was out by himself in a city he didn’t know at all.

I looked up when the bars closed — 2 a.m., which meant last call was right about then. I figured he’d find his way back soon.

Well, an hour went by. I was wide awake at that point, and getting worried. He had no phone, which meant he couldn’t call anyone, get an Uber or figure out how to walk back to the hotel. Shit.

Around 3:30, I took the car out for a spin around downtown Phoenix, thinking maybe Clark was wandering the streets, looking for the hotel. I saw a total of about six people out at that hour, none of them Clark. I went back to the hotel.

I couldn’t sleep. I lied awake for the next few hours watching the minutes creep by on the clock radio.

The only thing keeping me calm was imagining when Mike woke up and heard Clark hadn’t made it back. I figured he’d laugh and say Clark would turn up soon and it wasn’t that big a deal.

Just before 6:30 a.m., our phones received an Amber alert. Mike’s ringer was on and the alert woke him up. I half-jokingly told him maybe it was for Clark, since he hadn’t come back all night.

Mike did not think it was funny at all. Quite the opposite — he jumped out of bed and said, “WHAT?! This is bad!”

So it wasn’t just me! I called Julie and let her know what was happening, and the three of us loaded up back into the car. First we drove back to the last place we saw him, The Lost Leaf (we checked a port-o-potty along the way, thinking maybe Clark had needed a place to poop and fallen asleep haha. No dice.) When we got to the bar, we searched all the bushes around the place. Nothing.

We really had no idea where, if anywhere, Clark went next. For all we knew, he’d taken an Uber to a totally different part of the city before his phone died and stranded him.

We drove around some more, but it was pointless, so we went back to the hotel.

Next, I did something I’ve never done before. I called every hospital in the area, looking for Clark or an unidentified (in case he’d lost his wallet) drunk white guy who’d been brought in overnight. Nothing. Then I called the local police. They didn’t have him or any John Does who fit his description either.

“Clark belongs to Phoenix now,” Mike said.

Our last resort was calling hotels, thinking he’d given up trying to find ours and just gotten a room elsewhere.

There’s a shit ton more hotels than hospitals or police stations in Phoenix, so all three of us started calling. Some didn’t have anyone at the front desk answering a phone at that hour. Others wouldn’t even tell us if anyone by that name was checked in, for security reasons.

Finally, Mike called one about a half-mile down the road from ours. Yes, they had a guest by Clark’s name. The call was transferred to the room, but it just rang and rang.

We called back to see if they could tell us when this guest had checked in (Clark’s first name is very common, so it wasn’t unlikely it was a different guy with the same first and last name.)

The receptionist said 3 a.m.

We all three started cheering haha. “It’s him! It’s him!”

We figured our first call had gone unanswered because Clark was passed out. I explained the situation and asked if security would let us in the room, but the receptionist said that was against their security policy. I told her Clark would be the disheveled, hungover-looking white guy shuffling through the lobby later. She laughed and said she’d keep an eye out for him.

I assumed we had hours before Clark would wake up, and I felt wide awake because I was so relieved, so I changed my clothes and decided to go for a run on a trail along the nearby Salt River.

I’d just parked the car when I got a call from Clark, who’d made it back to our hotel at that point. Turned out he’d been eating breakfast in the hotel’s lobby when we called. He said he went to check out, probably just after we’d talked to the receptionist, and she told him “I think I just got a phone call about you” haha.

Anyway, it turned out he remembered our hotel was on Van Buren Street, near the intersection with 6th — but he didn’t know there was a 6th Avenue and a 6th Street. He walked up and down the stretch of Van Buren near the wrong 6th for hours before giving up and getting a room at that hotel!

I told him we were getting him microchipped.

I started down the trail. I thought it was all paved, but after a half-mile, I found myself on dirt and then rocks.


Downtown Phoenix from the trail.



Ran under a few not-so-scenic overpasses.


I wore the 530v2s I’m supposed to be wear testing. They felt good on every surface, but I really appreciated them on the rocks. They had enough cushioning I never felt one poke through like some of my less-cushioned shoes, and I also never felt like I was going to turn an ankle.

Overall though, it was kind of a shitty run. I was exhausted for obvious reasons. But I slogged through 4.5 slow miles. The best part was when I got attacked by a golden retriever puppy who came bounding over to me with such enthusiasm, she skidded about 5 ft. past me when she tried to stop haha.

After my run, I went back to the hotel, where I was pretty happy to see Clark, live and in the flesh, in our room. I got cleaned up, and then he, Julie and I went to do a little exploring. Mike decided to stay behind and take a nap.

Our first stop was Tacos Chiwas, where Julie had some tacos that ruined the fake Mexican food at home for her. (I will say though, there are a couple authentic Mexican places around here that do a good job — none of them are Taco Bell, however.)

Then we went to Papago Park, first to the Desert Botanical Garden, which is basically what it sounds like.

We just happened to be there when they were holding a chiles and chocolate festival, included with admission, so that was our first stop for some samples.

Then we walked around the gardens.


The bright green plants are actually glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.


Cactus and succulent gallery.


A cactus that dreamed of being a tree.


Julie in a hut like ones in which people used to live in the Sonoran Desert.


Clark and me walking past some pretty big cacti.


Mountain and more cacti.


Julie and me posing with a greetings sign.

We left the gardens and found nearby Hole in the Rock, a natural formation.


As you can see, some people were climbing up and down the front face of this thing, but there was a trail with some steep steps up the back, which is the way we went.


Looking through the hole toward the front.


Looking back toward the hole after walking through it.


View off to the side.


Clark and me in front of the hole.


Julie in front of the hole.

Clark and I were wearing flip-flops and had probably tested our luck enough at that point, so we didn’t try climbing to the very top, like some brave people.

We headed back to the hotel. We had sushi for dinner (another first for Julie, but she didn’t like the texture) and then picked up some beer and coolers for the next day.

That night, we went to a little bar called The Whining Pig, which had probably the best beer selection I’ve ever seen. It also had a bunch of games all over the place for people to play. We were sitting near some kind of Urban Dictionary card game. Clark and Mike found their favorite definition:


“Beer: The reason you get up in the morning and the reason you pass out at night” haha.

Julie and I only stayed for a beer or two, and then we left those two at the bar to go back to the hotel. I figured Clark was OK if he had Mike to keep him straight. Fortunately, Mike and Clark made it back to the hotel that night just fine, and we did not have a repeat of the night before.

Sunday was RACE DAY! We were planning on leaving pretty early for the track, since Julie and I had pre-race pit road passes, and sunrise wasn’t until 7 a.m., so I didn’t run.

We left the hotel a little after 8:30 and were parked before 9:30. I had a beer in the parking lot with Mike and Clark before Julie and I went to pit road.


Clark in front of the speedway with a bottle of AleSmith’s Speedway Stout.


He was so excited the night before to find the only beer store in Phoenix that sells that stuff. It’s brewed in San Diego and is currently ranked the 11th-best beer in the world.

It’s also 12 percent ABV, so there’s that.


Clark and me, with a much more chill Bell’s Oberon.


Julie and Clark.

We left Clark and Mike in the parking lot to pre-game. (An Arizona state law prohibits bringing alcohol in or out of a ticketed area at a sporting event, which means Phoenix is the first NASCAR track we’ve been to that didn’t let you bring in your own beer. So those two wanted to load up before the race so they didn’t have to buy so many way overpriced Buds once inside.)

Julie and I made our way to the infield access tunnel, which took us to pit road.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get where I could actually touch Jimmie stupid Johnson’s car for bad luck, and we also never got a chance to meet any drivers to try to get an autograph, but we still had a good time.


Looking at the start/finish line from the infield.


Greg Biffle’s tires lined up on pit road.


Julie and me where we signed the start/finish line (the 14s are for Tony Stewart, driving his last race at Phoenix, since he’s retiring after next week’s season finale.)


Where Julie and I signed it.


Surprise concert by The Offspring before driver introductions.


Kevin Harvick at driver introductions.

When they wrapped up introductions, fans were told to clear the track and head to their seats. I bought one Bud on the way to my seat. $9!! That was the last beer I drank all day. I’m not paying as much for a single beer as I do for a six-pack anywhere else! I’ll just be sober, thanks.

Mike and Clark found their way in. They looked like they’d achieved their goal of getting as wasted as possible in the parking lot. I asked a woman sitting by me to take our group picture before the race, while those two were still standing.


Mike, Clark, me and Julie.

Yes, Clark’s wearing a different shirt. He said the sun’s out guns out shirt is only for special occasions, like tailgating haha.

And then the race was under way.


Looking down the front stretch from our seats going into turn one.


Looking the other way, toward turns one and two.

It soon became apparent why those seats in turns one and two were $30 more than the ones on the front stretch. They had shade!

It was so hot in the sun, especially once everyone packed into the stands and I couldn’t feel a breeze anymore. I was guzzling water and sweating my face off. I was also pretty sure I was going to get a sunburn, not something I usually have to worry about in mid-November.

It was a good race though. Nearing the end, it looked like Matt Kenseth was going to win. People sitting in front of me were already leaving to try to get a jump on traffic.

With two laps to go, however, Michael McDowell cut down a tire and brought out a caution. On the restart, Kenseth came down into Alex Bowman’s car and basically spun himself out. There was another caution, and then Joey Logano won it in overtime to send himself to the final championship race in Miami next week. Never leave before the end of a race, no matter how over it looks!

Kyle Busch got the final slot, by finishing with enough points, since Johnson and Carl Edwards already claimed the other two slots with wins the last two weeks.

At this point, Clark was sitting next to Julie, a few rows in front of our seats. (She bought her ticket after we bought ours, and the seats directly next to and around ours were sold out.)

As people in the rows between us left, Mike and I realized…


Clark had toilet paper stuck in the waistband of his shorts!!

As my brother said when I sent him this picture, it must have been a pretty aggressive wipe!

It was a long walk back to the car and even longer wait to get out of the lot. We inched our way along all the roads out of the track and back to Phoenix, stopping at an In-N-Out along the way.

We all went straight to bed when we got back to the hotel. Clark was calling us soft for not wanting to go out, but then he was asleep 10 minutes later haha.

We got up early yesterday for the trip home, which was also fine.


Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the air.

We were back to our car around 3 p.m., so we went to D.C. to visit Clark’s brother, who got to go home last Friday. Then we drove home, dropped off Julie, traded Clark’s car for mine, picked up Pepper from Clark’s parents’ house, came home and went straight to bed again.

And that was our trip. I ran a grand total of 4.5 miles in four days, and I wound up taking today off running too because I had a long meeting to cover for work.

The plan is to run short and easy the next three days, take off Saturday and then run the marathon Sunday.

Speaking of the marathon, I got my bib number yesterday. It’s 1818!!!!


Bobby Labonte in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 during his championship season in 2000.


Unfortunately, the weather is not looking nearly as good as my bib number. Right now it’s supposed to be chilly, rainy and windy — 20 mph windy — Sunday morning in Philly. Basically, Shamrock all over again. I don’t know if I’ve got a shot at a PR in that mess. Oh well.

I’m still no. 1818!!


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