I was there …

The colors of a Colorado fall are inescapably beautiful

All it took was an email about the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix to get me thinking about where I have been and what I have seen since I began posting to this blog. In fact, some of what I began reminiscing about dates back even further than May, 2008 when I had the idea to create Buckle-Up-Travel. This has nothing to do with age, mind you, but rather my own way of saying that it wasn’t for the lack of spontaneity that had me showing up for different events around the world. Looking forward to getting tickets to the April 2022 running of Indy Cars on the street course at Long Beach may have also played a part in triggering these thoughts about events, future and past.

Coming at a time when nearly every gathering has been virtual for quite a while I have to say that seeing crowds returning to events is encouraging. So is the decision to open the doors to incoming international flights and to let the departing cruise ships sail away. This year saw Margo and me driving cross country on only two occasions and catching a flight in December will be our first time on a plane since March, 2020. Then again, not in living memory have we faced such a devastating global pandemic or seen firsthand the tragedies that overtook so many families, friends and neighbors. And yet, with the arrival of a colorful fall season, it seems as though those tough times of the past are now behind us.

Looking back in some ways is very therapeutic as it reinforces that yes, we are alive and yes, we have the time to do the many things we have missed out on although, living in Northern Colorado we haven’t suffered too many restrictions throughout this period. We were able to drive anywhere we wanted to go and we were able to enjoy fine dining at any number of local restaurants. In so doing, we did tip a few extra percentage points than normal just to show our appreciation that staff were on hand to serve a meal, pour a cup of coffee and scan out purchases.


Nothing says fall as having a cider producer
parked street side tempting all passers by!

What then of where and when I have been over the years? What did stand out as being memorable even after all these years? Starting with the Long Beach event of 1976 as I was returning from a business trip to Dallas (and yes, I drove from Edmonton, Alberta to Dallas) I decided that it might be a good idea to head west to California. Disneyland was very much on my mind but then I realized that the F1 US Grand Prix of Long Beach was that weekend and so I just had to see this race. While it was my first view of competitor Aussie Alan Jones it was Mario Andretti that stole the show with a late burst that saw him crowned as the winner.

It would be many years indeed decades later that Margo and I attended the F1 Monaco Grand Prix in Monte Carlo. The year was 2004 and we were able to witness Michael Schumacher at his best, even as distracted Juan Pablo Montoya  took him out of the event. In the tunnel, while under a full course yellow, somehow Montoya managed to run into the back of Schumacher who had driven spectacularly to make it to the front of the usual Monte Carlo “train.” Both Long Beach and Monte Carlo were events held on temporary street courses with restricted viewing opportunities but just taking in the atmosphere more than offset these viewing limitations.

However, watching events was only part of the story. In 2010 Margo and I had the opportunity to lay down laps around the world famous Nordschleife, or North Loop, of the Nürburgring on a closed track day, courtesy of Ron Simons Racing. He provided Margo and me a Lotus Exige S240 that tested every inch of our flexibility just to get in and out of. But oh boy, what fun and yes, with a couple of years track experience under our respective belts, we were definitely schooled by the locals. 

With race prep about to take place
we had to turn to the experts

And then of course it would be hard not to forget the time in 1974when I drove all the way to Bathurst so I could watch the Great Race. Not just watch it mind you, but to take to the track on the morning of the race itself. In my new Holden Torana SLR5000 what was meant to be a parade lap soon transitioned into something else altogether as a couple of other Toranas joined me on track. And no, I had no real idea about driving competitively so a big thanks to how well that Torana handled the climb up the mountain.

It was only a short time ago that I put real fear into the eyes of my brother Greg when he gave me the chance to repeat that drive of so long ago in his new Lexus. It was back in 2018 and just before Christmas and getting behind the right hand side steering wheel of his car, I put the passenger side wheels into the grass almost from the outset. Yet I have to admit, the memories all came rushing back even to where I remembered the track layout. It was on that 2018 trip that I took a ride around Sydney.   

I was there to see much that was of historical significance for me. Some of where I ended up was planned, but most of the time it was pure opportunistic. When my good friend David emailed me just before that trip to Sydney with the news that he had “wangled two rides in a race (Ferrari) F430 with a quick driver!” Telling me that; “Nathan Antunes will be the driver. He is an ex Red Bull ‘Young Gun’ who raced in F3, Formula Renault and Formula BMW, in Europe. Fantastic young man and a great steerer!” Much the same could be said about the time I actually got behind Mario Andretti in his two-seat Indy car sponsored by Honda for two hot laps around the road course at Sonoma.


Not a wine from Andretti vineyards but then again,
it’s good to have a favorite neighbor in hand

Almost all of these incidents have been reported at one time or another in this blog but what remains the common thread is just how fortunate a car guy like me has been through the years. Spread across five decades it is as if the opportunity to experience something car related is just around the corner. Something new to experience? When my next door neighbor and owner of a Chevrolet dealership asked if I wanted to take the new Corvette C8 Z51 for an outing what do you think was my response? Margo and I got to drive it up and down the foothills of the Rockies and returning to his dealership promptly made up our minds that we needed to order our own “Vette” only it would be the more track focused Z06 model.

Expect the unexpected is a common thread. Alongside opportunistic as well as a little that was purely serendipitous, the unexpected more likely will see me jump in with both feet. This hasn’t always been fully appreciated by Margo – she didn’t get to participate in the Ferrari F430 drive along and I have never heard the end of it – but as a couple it’s proved entertaining as it has provided us with multiple experiences that in all honesty we had no right to expect. 


And experiencing a good steak well,
what more could we say?

Fortunately though, during the times we have been home here in Colorado, these opportunistic, unexpected and serendipitous experiences have been shared over and over again. We delight in the fun a simple outing to the store has provided in these times. The excursions to our favorite restaurant where we take a slightly different route each time although I think Margo believes I do that just to confuse her should she want to take our daughter Anna back to the same place.

Yes I was there but here’s the thing. For almost every event referenced here Margo has been there right alongside me enjoying whatever it was that we were doing. Driving the Lotus on the Nürburgring where she did one more lap than I did, so I have to now admit she has far more experience on the Nordschleife than me. Likewise, there were times when driving our Corvette around Willow Springs International Raceway it was Margo who was rewarded with a “most improved driver of the day” gift of a set of racing gloves. And she was quicker through the turn 8 and 9 sequence than I ever managed to accomplish. Way quicker …

It just goes to show, memories are worth every discomfort that is sometimes involved and every hour spent waiting for this or that to take place. Usually on the most uncomfortable seats imaginable. As the country begins to open up more fully with flights to Europe and cruises through the Caribbean all beginning to take place in earnest, I hear the call of the open road or as I often say, we hear the highway calling: “Is that you Richard?” When you consider the holiday season is about to begin then I have to believe many of you will be taking advantage of the reopening of many countries so much so that it will take very little time before this global pandemic becomes a memory. And yet, for all of us with one voice, we can honestly say, “we were there!”  

In closing, it was good to be there as well!

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