Saturday, May 16, 2009

Barber Superbike Races - Birmingham, AL

The weekend of May 1-3 I made my annual pilgrimage to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, AL for a weekend of AMA Superbike racing action. I left Friday morning and stopped in Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park, which is comprised of the home in which he was born; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was a pastor and where his funeral was held; Fire Station Number 6, which was an important part of the community from its building in 1894 through 1991; the King Center, housing some of his personal effects; an interpretive visitor center; and his and his wife's tombs. It was a very educational and inspirational visit; we have certainly come a long way since Dr. King's time; we still have a ways to go, but I think he'd be happy to see just how far we've come.

His birth home:

I got to the track around 3:00 and got checked in - like last year, I worked as a volunteer, which is a pretty sweet deal - for 4 hours of work, you get a weekend pass for yourself and another for a friend, a cap and t-shirt, and a meal voucher. I scored an extra meal voucher, so that covered dinner for the evening; I enjoyed it while watching qualifying action. I also checked out the vendor area; it can get really busy on Saturday and Sunday, so exploring it on Friday was the way to do it.

A historic bike; Dick Mann won the 1970 Daytona race aboard it:

A new Bass Pro Shops was recently built literally next door to the track, so I spent a couple of hours checking it out. All those stores are big, but this one seemed bigger than usual; it was great fun exploring. While enjoying the fish tank, none other than Roger Hayden (a racer) and one of his mechanics joined me at the tank! I figured he was wishing to be an average joe for the evening, so I didn't bug him ... I just enjoyed the moment. :-)

Had a nice, relaxing evening at the hotel reading newspapers and watching a bit of TV and then turned in not too late so I could get up early the next morning to report for my shift.

I awoke about 10 minutes before my alarm was set and so had plenty of time to get ready and walk next door to BK for a biscuit and coffee. Then drove to the track, checked in, and headed up to the will-call ticket building where I was working. The flow of people waxed and waned depending upon the weather - the morning ended up bringing lots of rain off and on - it was a good time to be working indoors! During the course of the morning we got to see some excitement right in front of our building when a fellow decided to get huffy when a law enforcement officer asked him to move his bike. It escalated to the fellow shoving the officer, which led to him being floored and cuffed mighty quickly by the officer. Some people.

The afternoon brought clear skies and good racing action. I watched from several vantage points around the track and also spent some time walking around the paddock checking out the equipment, the mechanics at work, and a few racers, including Roger who I'd seen last night at Bass Pro Shops.

These guys seemed oblivious to all the action and noise.

Upon leaving the track I headed into downtown Birmingham to explore a bit. I visited Vulcan, the world's largest cast iron statue; it stands 56 feet tall on top of a 124-foot pedestal. I climbed to the top of the pedestal, from which there is a magnificent 360-degree view. A comical bit of info is that his backside is bare. :-)

View of Birmingham from the top:

Continuing the nude statue theme, I next sought out Electra, a 23-foot tall statue atop the Alabama Power Building.

I drove around downtown a bit more enjoying some nice architecture and stopped to savor the beautiful First United Methodist Church built in 1891.

I then headed back to the hotel, and upon arriving I was surprised to hear the tornado sirens going off! I tuned in to the weather and learned that there was some nasty weather just north of me; wall clouds and some cyclonic activity had been spotted. Fortunately it stayed north of where I was, but just barely. I was glad I was not camping!

Sunday morning I awoke to learn that there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms, with strong ones predicted, for the day. Didn't sound like a good day to be at the track, and I'd actually gotten my fill of action from the previous two days, so I decided to enjoy a leisurely drive home instead. As mentioned in my previous post, I'm on a mission to visit all of Georgia's 16 covered bridges, and I sought out my tenth, Howard's Bridge, just east of Athens. It was much more secluded than the last one I visited, and so fortunately wasn't marred with too much graffiti.

From there I took secondary roads back to the interstate in Augusta. I passed through Washington and stopped for lunch at a really neat little deli on the town square. I enjoyed a really good sandwich and cup of coffee while reading a bit and enjoying the breeze.

Stumbled upon this guy not too far from Washington:

I got home around 6pm, which was much better than the midnight it would have been had I stayed for the races. I checked in to see how that went, and a tornado warning had been declared at the track; the grid was cleared and the spectators were told to seek shelter. The first race finally ran after a delay, though it was shortened due to rain; I'm not sure if the other two races were run. It was a good decision to head on home.


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