The Salt Addicts
Well, the Top Speed Shootout 2013 is turning into a saga long before it takes place. The most respected and only surviving land speed event this year, it was originally scheduled for September 12th-16th. Heavy thunderstorms flooded it and several other events out as the salt flats went deep underwater. Even as recently as last week, the racing surface looked pretty hopeless. This event’s rain date was October 10-14, and then they decided to arrange with the BLM for October 7-12 due to racer requests. It’s starting to get a bit nippy out here. The BLM okayed that, but then Congressional Republicans nixed that idea by shutting down so many government services. Somehow, the local BLM office is able to restage it with the original 10-14 dates, so, weather permitting, it’s on.
The weather has been mostly dry for quite a while, and the water level has receded nicely. Looks to my untrained eye like the 8-mile long salt surface strip used for the track will be fully workable by October 10th. It’s supposed to rain a bit later today, but there are forecasts, and then there’s what really happens, especially here. At the moment, 10 AM, it’s 50 degrees and quite windy. The high is expected to hit only 55 today and for the next few, and my little Mr. Heater is chugging along on Low to keep things livable.
Given the weather, I think if it weren’t for the chance to see racers doing their thing on the Bonneville Salt Flats, I’d have been outa here a week ago. A constant, cold wind and 40-degree nights are not my first preference, and the first half of the trip southward toward Quartzsite will involve higher altitudes, which will be even cooler! At the same time, it’s still too soon to want to actually be at Quartzite, with temps still commonly hitting the low 90s. Crazy. I’ll hit something decent along the second half of the trip.
In the meantime, though, there’s no way I’m going to miss the chance to see a genuine historical (or at least time-honored) event like this. I’m not sure just what their policy is on spectators is, but I’ll find out. See, unlike nearly all other forms of racing, Bonneville events aren’t run to make money off of big crowds and gate fees, where if the gate isn’t large enough, there’s no reason to run the event anymore. These are club events, run for the sake of running your wheeled device as fast as it can go in a limited space. If anything, most clubs tolerate spectators as an inevitable and necessary thing but, without locking them inside caged bleachers, it’s a pain to keep them from getting run over in the pits or doing damage to the Salt Flats. Some clubs charge to get in, while others don’t bother.
I refer to the Salt Flats as a limited space because (as I understand it so far) these cars and motorcycles have just 4 miles or so to accelerate to their top speed of, say, 200 or 450 MPH. By the 5th mile marker, it’s over – pop the chutes and hit the binders to come back to a full stop before you run off the edges of the smooth salt at mile 8 or 10. Acceleration at high speeds is a slow climb because air drag multiplies like rabbits as speed increases, and you can watch a lot of real estate going by at 400 MPH while you’re hoping for 431 to arrive.
I suspect that, as a mere spectator, it’s something I won’t forget. I’m a weirdo who gets a palpable thrill from watching and listening to a ’64 Plymouth lifting its front wheels well clear of the ground as it launches furiously down a quarter-mile dragstrip. Here, as I wander through the thrashing in the pit area and then attempt to go miles down the edges of the track to see the vehicles at speed, I know I’ll see something fascinating – to me at least. Whether I’ll be able to capture any of it for you is debatable. I’ll be at least a quarter-mile away from the span of the track. Between the water bottles, binoculars, camera with two lenses, video camera, tripod, and extra batteries and tapes, I may just keel over and be unable to right myself. Yes, you can safely say that I’m hoping that this last and only event of the year is able to take place.